BARBARA RENSENHOUSE attended Western Michigan University, earning a BS in 1951, and went on to teach art in Midland MI, Portage public schools and the WMU Campus Elementary and High School. Along with taking classes at University of Colorado, University of Michigan and Ashridge College near London, she returned to WMU, earning her master's degree in 1958. In 1959, Barbara began her 32-year career as Associate Professor of Art at WMU, retiring in 1991. Barbara wrote and published her own vast tome of a textbook she used for her classes. She was nominated to receive the teaching excellence award of the year in '91 and was described as truly embodying the characteristics that define a distinguished teacher. She was an active member of the Upjohn Color Camera Club for many years, often creating the center pieces and decorations for awards banquets. Barbara loved being surrounded by her vast collection of art created by friends, former students, associates and some well known artists. She took every opportunity to visit art museums, so would venture off with friends on many Kalamazoo Institute of Art bus tours, as well as attending countless NAEA conventions around the country even after retirement.
Perhaps Barbara is best known for the many years of staying in touch, the old school way. She created elegantly silkscreened, hand-colored and embellished art cards and bookmarks in her TR home studio. These elaborately themed gems celebrated seasons and holidays and were mailed with specially selected postage stamps to nearly 200 friends for over 65 years. In more recent years, Barbara enlisted Kinkos for printing and the assistance of her niece Nan to bring back vintage designs from her collection to keep this tradition alive. In return, friends and family sent her postcards from their world travels, which she collected and reported on in her in enclosed news memos, along with personal messages. The most prolific postcard senders would be awarded a prize packet of stamps. Her originals from this vast collection are now preserved at the WMU Archives. Barbara remained in touch with childhood and college friends as well as colleagues and former students who inevitably became friends. These friendships were vital and valuable to her. She enjoyed frequent lunches and "Birthday Club" with her local friends and loved traveling to visit those far-flung friends on a regular basis for many years. Barbara has been described and will be remembered by family and friends as "the tall, lean lady with the floppy blue hat," "lively and imaginative," "has integrity and will share knowledge with you," "a mentor who took me under her wing," "generosity of spirit," "a grand and real teacher," "kind," "affable," "a good listener," "very positive in all kinds of weather," "a gracious friend," "resourceful," and "100% trustworthy." All agreed that she was a great person with a fun sense of humor. and that she will be sorely missed in all of our lives. Barbara passed away peacefully on Saturday October 19, 2019 in Hastings, MI.
- Second Friday in February
- $550 is the spring 2020 award
- Typically one award by nomination and proposal
- Awards to students shall be disbursed as reimbursement for expenses previously approved by the Director of the Frostic School of Art.
- Art education major
- Full time, undergraduate student
- Students must provide a proposal for travel with budget at the time of nomination
- Student must be nominated by art education faculty