Verna Rausch was a pioneer in the medical laboratory science field during her 40-year career at the University of Minnesota.
Starting in the 1950s, she became a professor and director at what was then known as the Medical Technology program at the U. The program, started in 1922, was the oldest such program in the United States and referred to as the gold standard for its excellence, a reputation it maintains today. More than 4,000 students have graduated from the program, the most of any school in the country.
In 1956, Rausch and fellow professor Esther Freier wrote one of the first research papers on quality control in clinical labs, described by professional journals and colleagues as a seminal work on the subject.
Rausch, 95, died Jan. 18 of complications from dementia at Adagio Assisted Living Residence in St. Louis Park.
“She was a giant in the field,” said Prof. Emerita Karen Karni, who was mentored by Rausch in the 1960s and later had an adjoining faculty office with her. “She did beautiful research and was well-respected.”
Rausch, a lifelong Minneapolis resident, was raised on the city’s North Side. She spent several years taking care of her ailing mother before attending college and graduating as a clinical chemist from the U’s med tech program in 1945. She joined the faculty a year later, with an expertise in the analysis of blood and body fluids.
She might have considered medical school but finances and her interest in academics steered her to research, said her nephew Todd Bredesen, of Crystal. Since she rarely talked about her accomplishments, he learned more about her career only after she died, he said.
The 1956 paper by Rausch and Freier set the standard for quality control on analysis results from laboratory procedures, said Karni, whose specialty was immunohematology. Rausch was a joy to work with because of her fairness, wisdom and sense of humor, she said.
“She didn’t write papers titled, ‘Comparison procedure to A, B and C,’ ” she said. “She wrote one paper titled, ‘A Tilt at a Windmill.’ ”
Rausch also played a huge role in mentoring students, including Karni. “I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did without her help,” she said.
Rausch was a faculty member until she retired in 1987. She was president of the American Society for Medical Technology in 1967 and received the U Alumni Association’s Outstanding Contributions to Education Award. She and Freier received the Professional Achievement Award from the Society for Medical Technology in 1977.
Rausch was known to start each day with a cup of coffee, working the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink and reading that day’s Peanuts comic strip, said Bredesen. She often reinforced points with sayings from Peanuts and was given gifts that reflected her devotion to the strip, he said.
Fiercely loyal to her alma mater, she had season tickets to Gophers football and hockey games for 50 years, said Bredesen. When relatives attended games with her, they were warned not to look at their cellphones, he said. She also loved going to Minnesota Twins games and fishing on Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota.
Rausch survived a double mastectomy, outliving her younger six brothers and sisters. Besides Bredesen, she is survived by 11 nieces and nephews and 16 great-nieces and nephews. Services were held Saturday.