image of Geneva Van Horne

Geneva Van Horne

After 88 fruitful years, Geneva Christina Tufte Van Horne set off on her next great adventure on December 14, 2017.  She is survived by her sister, Sylvia Immel; her children, Mark Penland and Paul (Lisa) Van Horne; her stepchildren, Robert Van Horne, Roger Van Horne, and Russell (June) Van Horne, and numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.  She was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. Robert Van Horne, and her sister, Loretta Day.


A native Montanan and the eldest of three sisters, Geneva was born in 1928 in Opheim to Aletta Eliason Tufte and Marcus Tufte.  A bright student benefiting from her mother’s tutelage, she could read before she entered school, where she skipped two grades.  Geneva attended school in Opheim, Glasgow, and Great Falls, graduating in 1945 from Great Falls High School.  In 1946, she married Clarence H. Penland, Jr.  In 1947, she began her career in education, teaching grade school music in Denton, MT.  In 1948, the couple welcomed a son, Mark.  In 1949, Geneva graduated from the College of Great Falls with a B.A. in English and minors in education, French, and music.


From 1949 to 1952, Geneva taught grade school in Arlington, VA.  In 1952, she joined AFSA and its successor, the NSA, serving as a research analyst with skills in cryptanalysis, French, and Vietnamese.  In 1956, Geneva focused again on education, teaching high school English in Greenfield, MD.  In 1958, she earned her M.A. degree in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin.  Her union with Clarence ended in 1958.  She served as a librarian in Greenfield, WI, from 1958 to 1960.


In 1960, Geneva returned to Montana as an Assistant Professor of Library Science at the University of Montana.  In 1962, Geneva married Dr. Robert L. Van Horne, the Dean of Pharmacy at UM, with whom she shared 50 years in Missoula.  They enjoyed raising children, traveling, building two homes, and entertaining.  Robert brought to their family a daughter (Colleen) and three sons (Robert, Roger, and Russell).  In 1964, the couple produced a son, Paul.  In time, they were blessed with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


Geneva taught at Sacred Heart Academy in Missoula (1966-67) and the UM Native American Family Program (1967-68).  In 1968, she joined the UM School of Education as an Assistant Professor, focusing primarily on library media and elementary school literature.  She was promoted to Full Professor in 1982 and received several merit awards.  Professionally active at the state, regional, and national levels, she held leadership positions in numerous organizations, such as the AAUW, UM Faculty Senate, NCTE, NEA, MEA, ALA, Five Valleys Reading Council (president), MATELA (president), and MLA (president).  Geneva was recognized by the MLA for providing dynamic and visionary leadership to teachers, administrators, librarians, and students.  Intensely focused, she was a rigorous and enthusiastic educator, and she required a similar level of commitment from her students.  Her “kiddie lit” course was reputedly UM’s most difficult, but her students claimed to have learned more there than in any other class.  She entered retirement in 1994.


Geneva loved music and was an accomplished accompanist, violinist, and violist.  Her humor was dry and subtle, and she loved to tease.  A gracious hostess and generous gift-giver, she was a stickler for good grammar, manners, and looking one’s best.  An avid reader, she tended to be reserved and introspective, yet she was also willing to fight for what mattered.  She resisted censorship and promoted intellectual freedom, and she successfully fought for gender pay equality at UM.


Geneva was a classy and charming lady with a hearty laugh and a twinkle in her eye, and she claimed she never felt old.  She had an active retirement, participating in the League of Women Voters and AAUW.  She enjoyed many warm friendships through Vasa, church, the Retired Officer’s Association, and PEO (BE chapter).  She traveled extensively, including many North American Elderhostel adventures with Robert, as well as adventures in Mexico, Europe, Turkey, Israel, and Egypt.  After Robert’s 2013 passing, she traveled more frequently to Seattle, where she shared adventures with Paul’s family.  Always the educator, she continued to provide life advice and grammatical correction to her family, friends, and hospital staff alike, until two days prior to her passing in Seattle.


Celebrations of Geneva’s life will be on 2/17/2018, at 11:00 at First Lutheran Church of Richmond Beach, and on 6/30/2018 at 11:00 at Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church.

First Lutheran Church of Richmond Beach (2/17/2018)
18354 8th Ave NW
Shoreline, WA 98177


Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church (6/30/2018)
830 South Ave W.
Missoula, MT 59801




4 Responses to “GENEVA T. VAN HORNE”

  • Nicola & Brian Cram says:

    We were privileged to know this amazing Lady and came to love her wit, appreciate that twinkle in her eye and shared fun evenings with her both at our house and Paul and Lisa’s house. Geneva, you will be missed so much as you touched so many lives. Thank you for your many contributions to this world and it was truly a pleasure to know you.

  • Angie Palin says:

    I was a student of Geneva’s. She was a warm, kind, and loving lady. She prepared me for my teaching career better than anyone else. I still rely on her advice.

    I was also a flute player in the sentinel band with Paul. I am so very sorry for your loss. You mom was one amazing lady.

  • Helen Eden says:

    Saddened at seeing an obituary for Mrs. Geneva Van Horne, librarian education professor at the University of Montana. Mrs. Van Horne was a stern task master who worked her students’ proverbial hoofies to the quick – but she produced school librarians who knew how to design/maintain school libraries (“media centers”) that were the “education hub of the school.” I marvel that Mrs. Van Horne remembered who I was and greeted me with enthusiasm, every time I ran into her decades later (most recently, a year or two ago in Costco). RIP, Mrs. Van Horne! (Facebook message)

  • Robert Aloise, Ed.D. says:

    I graduated from the U of Montana in 1970, majoring in elem. educ.
    I was lucky enough to have taken Professor Van Horne’s kiddie lit course in 1968 (I believe she authored the text). She taught me all I know about children’s literature….she was one of the best teachers I ever had! They ‘don’t make them like her anymore!’ She was tough….worked us hard and she inspired me as a teacher, principal and superintendent in my forty yr career in education in the NY suburbs. Subsequently, I received my masters and doctorate degrees at Columbia Univ but there were no better teachers that Professor Van Horne. Thank you, ma’am for that great experience!
    Robert Aloise, Ed.D.

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