Penelope Reed Doob died peacefully on March 11th, in Toronto, Ontario, after a long and brave battle with Parkinson’s disease. A member of Pemi’s Board of Directors, she was 73 years old.
Penelope was the granddaughter of Pemi co-founder Dudley “Doc” Reed and his wife Clara Jane, the daughter of Tom and Betsy Reed, and sister to Tom Reed, Jr. She spent all of her early summers at Pemi before going off to Camp Interlaken, first as a camper and then as a counselor. Pemigewassett was nevertheless her first love, and on her last visit to Wentworth in the summer of 2015, she made it clear that it was her favorite spot on earth – this from someone whose many travels had taken her as far afield as Australia. Aside from her role on the Pemi Board, she contributed directly to the camp program for decades, first helping Betsy with our annual Gilbert and Sullivan productions and then taking over as producer and co-director of the lively operettas.
Beyond the Baker Valley, Penelope was a Professor of Dance, English Literature, and Women’s Studies at York University, where she also served as Chair of the Department of Dance, Associate Vice President of Faculties, Associate Principal of Glendon College, and Academic Director for York’s Center for the Support of Teaching. Her teaching and research areas encompassed Medieval and Renaissance studies, dance history and criticism, sexual stereotypes in opera, literature, and dance, and non-fiction writing. She published three books: Nebuchadnezzer’s Children: Conventions of Madness in Medieval Literature; The Idea of the Labyrinth from the Classical Period through the Middle Ages; and, with Charlotte Morse and Marjorie Woods, The Uses of Manuscripts in Literary Studies. She also co-authored legendary Canadian principal dancer Karen Kain’s autobiography, Movement Never Lies.
Penelope’s reviews and feature articles appeared in publications such as the Toronto Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen, Dance Magazine, Ballet News, Performing Arts in Canada, and Ballet International. She developed more than 20 documentaries for the CBC Radio program, The Dance, and wrote extensive historical program notes for the National Ballet of Canada.
A graduate of The Lincoln School in Providence, Rhode Island, Penelope went on to major in English Literature at Harvard University, where she graduated summa cum laude. She took her doctorate at Stanford University, her dissertation there becoming her first book, on medieval madness. Among her academic honors, she was the recipient of Woodrow Wilson, Kent, and Guggenheim Fellowships. Despite a lifelong fascination with the arts, she was also keenly interested in the sciences, and was a founding President of Reed McFadden, a medical research company focusing on HIV/AIDS.
Despite her singular academic abilities and professional accomplishments, Penelope was as proud of her family’s involvement with Pemi as she was of anything in her life. An aficionado of international opera and ballet, she was as happy to watch mealtime singing in the mess hall as she was to watch Placido Domingo or Natalia Makarova perform at Covent Garden. As brilliant and engaged as Penelope was, she was also patient and caring. She was principled but never doctrinaire, inspiring but never condescending, a most serious person who could, oh so often, be seen laughing on the very edges of bodily control. As her resume suggests, she was never afraid to try something new. If you are willing to imagine the Pemi Kid as a girl rather than a boy, she could easily have been the model. We are richer for her presence and will miss her greatly
Plans for commemorating Penelope are still taking shape. We will pass them along as they become clearer. The family has decided that donations in Penelope’s memory might be directed towards The Parkinson’s Foundation, The Humane Society, and Public Broadcasting (PBS or NPR). All were organizations in which she believed and which she supported over the years.
~Tom Reed, Jr.