The UMBC community was deeply saddened to learn that Dr. Rita Sloan Berndt ‘71, psychology, passed away on June 17 of lymphoma. Born in Baltimore and raised in Catonsville, Berndt first attended the Institute of Notre Dame, ‘62, and continued her education at UMBC after her first son was born. Her final degrees, ‘75, M.A. psychology, and ‘77, Ph.D. cognitive psychology, were earned at the Johns Hopkins University.
After her graduation from Johns Hopkins, Berndt became a faculty member in the neurology department at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She worked as a full-time professor and studied those who suffered from aphasia – the loss of the power to use or understand words – and retired in 2008. Dr. Sheila Blumstein calls Berndt a “force in the fields of aphasia and neuroscience” and credits Berndt as one of the reasons aphasia is better understood today.
While her work and education were deeply important to Berndt, her obituary in The Baltimore Sun explains that she had a great enthusiasm for all aspects of life:
She loved to travel and spent many summers at Great Gott Island in Maine. She also traveled each year to Italy with friends and loved going to Yellowstone National Park to watch the wolves.
The couple shared a love of athletics, and her husband remembers Dr. Berndt keeping a pair of Converse hightops and socks in the trunk of their car until they were in their 30s, in case they spotted a game of basketball they could join.
A celebration of Berndt’s life will be held at UMBC on July 16 at 11 a.m. in the Performing Arts and Humanities Building. A private burial will follow in the fall at Great Gott Island.