University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

Remembering Jean Dean Holland

jeanhollandJean Dean Holland, who helped build the pathology department at UND, who loved art and the opera, and whose contributions sustained the North Dakota Museum of Art during the lean years after the 1997 flood, died Sunday in Grand Forks. She was 87.

Holland gave the museum $315,000 after the flood, a gift that really saved it, said Laurel Reuter, the museum’s executive director.

“She’d gone to see her attorney looking for advice about something and he said, ‘You have too much cash. You should spend it,’” Reuter said. “And she said, ‘What am I going to do? Buy a boat?’”

When the attorney called the museum to say he had a client who wanted to give money, Reuter said, it took her a while to realize he was talking about Holland, who volunteered at the museum’s front desk.

Holland was born Oct. 19, 1923, in Omaha, Neb., and graduated from University of Nebraska-Omaha. She earned a master’s degree in medical technology at Wayne State University in Detroit and trained as a medical technologist at the Henry Ford Hospital.

She worked for a time in Louisiana, but found the climate too hot. So, in 1949 at the age of 25, she accepted a position in the UND School of Medicine in Grand Forks as an instructor in the fledgling medical technology program and helped establish the pathology department. She retired as an associate professor of pathology in 1985. Among her many professional distinctions was the Charles D. De Bruyn Kops Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching and Service in 1975 and Emeritus status.

Holland was married for 30 years to Bill Saumur, a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Department. Although they divorced, they were friends, said Pat Larson, Holland’s sister-in-law (and Saumur’s sister). For one thing, Saumur had taught Holland how to make good investments.

“She always said he made her a rich woman,” Larson said.

Holland was well-read, well-traveled and loved the arts, Larson said. She was proud of her English heritage and after retiring traveled extensively in the U.S., Europe, Russia and the Holy Land. In her last years, Holland lived in a retirement home.

“I often teased her at Valley Memorial Home,” Larson said. “I called her ‘The Queen’ because she would sit there in her wheel chair, in her cashmere sweater — she had six cashmere sweaters. She had orchids on her windowsill. And she had her Bose radio tuned to Minnesota Public Radio, listening to Beethoven. She was quite a person.”

Eileen Nelson was Holland’s student at UND before becoming her colleague and a friend for more than 50 years. Together, they edited the North Dakota Society of Medical Technology newsletter for more than 25 years and attended many professional meetings together. Holland was a president of NDSMT and held other offices, as well.

“She was such an inspiration to the students because she had such a wonderful work ethic,” Nelson said. “She encouraged students to be the best they could be and was an excellent teacher in hematology.”

Holland was an adviser for freshman and master’s program students and supervised the pathology department’s hematology and cytogenetics laboratory. She was the Hematology Problem Editor for the American Journal of Medical Technology, received a Golden Service award from the American Society of Clinical Laboratory Science in 2001, authored a number of papers and frequently presented at professional gatherings.

Holland painted watercolors and loved classical music and the opera, an interest that Nelson shared. She had an infectious laugh, and was a good and loyal friend, Nelson said.

Dr. Marv Cooley, medical director of the lab at Altru Health System and at Dak-Minn Blood Bank, knew Holland as both as her student and as a colleague. Her disposition, knowledge and perspective was a joy, he said.

“She came to work every day upbeat, and it rubbed off on everybody else, too,” Cooley said. “Everyone enjoyed being in that section of the laboratory and it made it a pleasure to learn from her as well.”

Holland taught at UND, but she was a student, too, enrolling in art classes, music, history, English and social studies. After retiring, she greeted the public as the volunteer information desk attendant at North Dakota Museum of Art for more than 17 years. She was on its board of trustees and a major sponsor for the Summer Music Series. In 2003, one of the museum galleries was named in her honor. But her relationship with the North Dakota Museum of Art and its staff went far beyond honors and service.

“The museum was her family,” her sister-in-law said. “They were very good to her.”

Holland was honored in 2008 with an Individual Support of the Arts award, one of four major awards the North Valley Arts Council bestows annually. Holland also contributed to the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre, UND Burtness Theatre, Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra and UND Chester Fritz Auditorium.

In 2010, it was announced that Holland had designated her estate to the North Dakota Museum of Art. Holland was a big admirer of the Chiara String Quartet, and the ensemble played at a gala in her honor when the endowment was announced.

-- Courtesy of the Grand Forks Herald.

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