This obituary was written by Freda's family.

Freda G. Rebelsky, age 78, of Grinnell, Iowa, passed away quietly and peacefully on Monday, July 20, 2009 at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa in the company of her son, Samuel, and daughter-in-law, Michelle.

The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, a donation be made in Freda's name to the Grinnell Regional Medical Center, the Mayflower Community, or to a charity of your choice. Memories and condolences may be shared with the Rebelsky family through email to

Freda was born on March 11, 1931, in New York, and spent her early years in the Amalgamated Housing, an early cooperative housing project. She married Bill Rebelsky on January 1, 1956 and they had a happy life together until his death in 1979.

After graduating the Fieldston School (of the Ethical Culture School system), Freda earned bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Human Development from Harvard/Radcliffe, at a time when it was difficult for women to pursue a Ph.D. During her time at Chicago, Freda worked for Bruno Bettleheim, caring for children with developmental problems.

After finishing her Ph.D., Freda went on to Boston University, where she was the first woman to earn tenure in the department of Psychology. She taught, did research, and advocated for institutional change at BU for over thirty years. While she was proud of her research on a wide variety of topics, from the need for socialization in spider monkeys to aging to cross-cultural developmental psychology, she most valued her teaching and the way teaching allowed her to impact young peoples' lives. She received many accolades for her mentoring and teaching throughout her career, including the American Psychological Association's Outstanding Teacher of Psychology award. After retiring from BU, she went on to a successful career in motivational speaking.

Freda moved to the Mayflower Community in Grinnell, Iowa in 2008 to spend more time with her family, particularly with her grandchildren, who she loved very much. She told her friends that it was the right decision. She clearly relished not only the time with them, but also the opportunity to try new things and meet new people.

Freda enjoyed many things in life, including art and music (which she also made - she played cello and recorder, danced, painted, sculpted, drew, wrote poetry, and even recently started making cards), the natural world, progressive politics, and, most importantly, people. Her commitment to people shone through in everything from the friendships she continually made to her work for social justice to the regular advice and support she provided to anyone she met. She always believed that she could make a difference. She was truly a giving person.

Freda's passions showed in her many volunteer positions, from chair of the faculty senate and president of AAUP at Boston University, through board membership and chairing organizations that include the Boston Lyric Opera and Boston Mobilization for Survival, to her recent appointment to the Grinnell Human Rights Commission.

Freda is survived by her son, Samuel, her daughter-in-law, Michelle, her three grandchildren, William, Jonathan, and Daniel, her nephews William and Sydney Goldstein, her grand-nieces, Amanda, Paige, and Staci, her grand-nephew, Jazz, the other grandmother, Kathleen Steele, many cousins, and all the friends who were close enough to consider themselves family. Freda was preceded in death by her parents, William and Sarah Gould, her step-father, Samuel Ochs, her husband, William Rebelsky, and her sister, Helen Leni Goldstein.

Samuel A. Rebelsky