Penelope Billings Reed Doob

August 13, 1943March 11, 2017

Doob, Penelope Billings Reed - Penelope Reed Doob died peacefully on Saturday, March 11, 2017, at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, after a long and brave battle with Parkinson's disease at the age of 73.

Beloved daughter of the late Thomas L. and Betsy Reed, and dear sister of Thomas L. Reed Jr. Penelope was the loving wife of Graham Parker (deceased) and Anthony Doob.

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 Centre 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 with Stephen Godfrey legendary Canadian principal dancer Karen Kain's Movement Never Lies: An Autobiography.

Penelope's reviews and feature articles appeared in publications such as the 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.

One of Penelope's greatest passions was for Camp Pemigewassett, a summer camp in New Hampshire for young boys that has been in her family for four generations. As a co-owner and member of the Board of Directors, she contributed directly to the camp program for decades, including her production and direction of the annual Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. It was the place she had spent her summers growing up and she was devoted to it. It was her favorite place on earth.

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, often, be seen laughing on the very edges of bodily control. As her resume suggests, she was never afraid to try something new. We are richer for her presence and we will miss her greatly.

A Celebration of Penelope's Life will be held at a later date. Plans for commemoration will be given when they become available.

Donations to the Parkinson's Foundation, the Humane Society or Public Broadcasting would be appreciated by the family as your expression of sympathy.


Penelope Billings Reed Doob

have a memory or condolence to add?

Vanessa Harwood-Scully

March 23, 2017

Penelope, I have known you for so many years . Our most fun times were our visits to Mexico with the World Dance Alliance.How we laughed zooming, until a traffic jam stopped us, down the highway in a Mustang convertible , thinking it would be our last few moments on earth. But no it wasn't and we went on to many more memorable trips.So thank you for your amazing life. You touched so many people in so many different ways. It was an honour to make you laugh and to be your friend.All my love Vanessa( NationalBallet )

Blair Smith

March 21, 2017

If one is lucky, one meets someone early in life who shapes and informs his or her entire life thereafter. I was very fortunate. I had two such encounters and both were at Glendon during my undergraduate years (1969-73). Penelope was the first and Michael C. was the second. They taught me what it meant to have a true love of learning and a steadfast commitment to intellectual honesty. They also taught me how not to take myself too seriously a lesson that I've yet to master. Penelope was a presence, a force, a gift to those she met and mentored. It was with very deep sadness that I heard of her passing. Somehow, the world is now a poorer and less interesting place to be.

Modesto Amegago

March 21, 2017

It is with profound sorrow that I have heard about your passing away. It brings back memories of my interviews and employment at York University and the motherly care and support you had given me, to which I will forever remain grateful. Truly, your untimely departure from us has left a great vacuum that would not be filled easily. But I take consolation in the fact that you have played your part on earth and you are now resting in the bosom of our maker. May you be a touch light glowing ahead of us and may our maker grant you an everlasting and peaceful rest, joy and happiness till we meet again. Thank you my motherly figure. Modesto Mawulolo Amegago

Rebekah Rimsay

March 20, 2017

We have lost a dignified and kind soul. My encounters with Penelope were always imbued with her dedication to dance, emotional sensitivity and intense sincerity. She has left a rich legacy; she will be missed.

Dyan Elliott

March 17, 2017

I first encountered Penelope at Glendon College when I was a student in her Chaucer class. She was a riveting presence -- one of the best lecturers I have ever witnessed. Later she would direct my MA thesis in Interdisciplinary Studies at York. Penelope inspired me to become a medieval scholar. I will always be grateful to her, remembering her as a fearless feminist of formidable mind and dazzling beauty.

Dyan Elliott
Northwestern University

Robert Everett

March 17, 2017

Penelope made lasting contributions to York University and left an indelible impression on those who encountered her. So many have benefited from her wisdom and passion, and from her warmth and respectful collegiality

Emily Cheung

March 16, 2017

I met Professor Penelope since 1997 when I entered BFA program at York and after in 2003, she was my advisor as MA program. I still remembered how excited she was when she told me that she will be my advisor. Professor Penelope helped me through tough times when I was hired to perform at Elgin Theatre knowing that I had to attend school and being a professional performer. She had a huge heart and passion for artists. She is not only a professor but a true genuine mentor who really gives her love to students. I am very sadden to know the news and my deepest condolences to her family at this moment. She will be missed terribly.
Yours truly,
Emily Cheung

Michael De Robertis

March 16, 2017

Though my only interaction with Penelope at York University was while serving together on a Senate committee, I recall always being impressed by her contributions; incisive and to the point, delivered with grace and compassion. I am saddened at the loss of such a wonderful colleague. My condolences to her family.

Tom Reed

March 16, 2017

Thanks to all of you who have added to this guest book so many warm evocations of my sister Penelope. I wanted to share with you one vignette from my visits to her side when she was in palliative care.

On the Tuesday before Penelope died, when she had slipped away to a liminal place in which I couldn't join her, a music therapist, a lovely young woman, came in with her electric keyboard to play for us. She asked what sorts of music Penelope liked, and I had to admit that she loved absolutely every kind. I fear it wasn't very helpful request information. I told her, though, that Penelope might especially appreciate Bach or Mozart at the moment, not really knowing if the woman's repertoire extended that far. She adjusted herself in front of the keyboard and began a soft, adagio, Bach partita. Penelope, who hadn't seemed aware of her surroundings for a day and who hadn't moved for over an hour, unmistakably smiled that same witty and wise smile you all know so well, the one that came when, whatever else might have been happening, she knew you were sharing with her a moment of truth and beauty. For that moment, she was back.

As you can imagine, it was not always easy being the younger brother of someone of Penelope's singular beauty and grace and stunning intellect. But I always knew I was loved, even if I got to go to the Reed and Fauver families' Camp Pemigewassett for Boys and she didn't. She was the best of sisters, and her sometimes Dickensian eccentricities only made me love her more. I miss her a hundred ways.

Gdalit Neuman

March 16, 2017

I was so sorry to hear of Penelope's passing. She was an inspiration to me and a lifelong mentor, as she was to countless York students. I'll never forget her passion and compassion during our first meeting in her office after my audition to York University's Department of Dance many years ago, as a potential candidate to the BFA program. Even back then, Penelope encouraged me to follow my dreams and make dance my vocation, as an artist, teacher, writer and perhaps even a scholar one day. She saw my potential and always believed in me. I felt that as an undergraduate, and later as a graduate student whenever I happily bumped into her in the halls of the department. Penelope always made time for her former students and it was felt. For a long time, she was the heart and soul of the department. It was a privilege and gift to know this important, generous, gracious, brilliant and caring woman; and I am better for it.