As the daughter of the late Dr. Claude Ries ’18, beloved professor of Greek and Bible and division chair of the theology and Christian education department, Priscilla’s connection with Houghton began when she was born in “downtown Houghton,” in what was then known as “Benton House,” in 1929. She graduated from Houghton Preparatory School (now Houghton Academy) and attended Houghton College for one year. After she moved out of the area, she formed Houghton’s alumni chapter in the Chicago area and served for a time as the alumni board president. In 1983, she became Houghton’s second woman trustee and was officially designated as alumni representative. She loved Houghton and returned often, especially after her retirement.
For the 11 summers that Priscilla volunteered her time to work with retired assistant professor of English and former director of conferences, Bruce Brenneman, “she was a bright shining spot in our lives—an absolute delight,” he remembers. As the activities director for summer conference guests, specializing in Elderhostel programs, Priscilla not only planned and organized activities for the summer Elderhostel participants but was also involved in all facets of Houghton’s summer conference season—including but not limited to hosting, preparing registration materials for various groups, acting as resident director for one of the residence halls, working at the registration desk, making beds, setting tables, and lettering the college bulletin board. In addition, she created a daily “Scoop Sheet” outlining the day’s activities for the Elderhostel guests. The sheet included accompanying background information and a biographical sketch of all of the participants—a piece that she collaged, typed and distributed to everyone involved in the program.
“To me, Priscilla represents the quintessential volunteer,” Brenneman wrote in a letter to the awards programming director of the CASE distinguished service awards when Priscilla was nominated for the Ernest T. Stewart Award for Alumni Volunteer Involvement in 1998. “She had a special knack for making people feel important. I credit much of the success of that program to her untiring efforts, her attention to detail, her genuine interest in each individual participant and her innovative ideas.”
Friends who had the opportunity to work with Priscilla during those summers benefitted from not only her work ethic, organization and creativity but also her love of people. “What a wonderful woman!” commented Rochelle (Smith ’93) Bohm. “I carry the wisdom (and wit!) that Priscilla shared with me for the two summers I was blessed to work with her.” Dr. Judy Congdon, professor of organ and harpsichord and college organist, worked summers with Priscilla during her early years at Houghton. “I remember many conversations with Priscilla and count her a dear friend,” shared Congdon. “I treasured her strength of character, her caring ways, and her infectious smile.” She is also remembered for her hearty laugh, her gracious spirit, and her deep faith.
She is survived by husband, Robert E. Waltz, nephews David H. Ries ’71 and wife Jean (Weidemann ’76) Ries, Dan Ries, Shawn Spilman, and Stanley Spilman; a niece, Deborah (Ries ’74) VanEenwyk; great-nephews including Andrew S. Ries ’02,Timothy Ries ’08, Peter M. Ries ’10, Stephen D. Ries ’12; and great-niece Emily L. VanEenwyk ’10. Priscilla was preceded in death by her parents, former professor of Greek and Bible as well as chair of the division of theology and Christian education, Claude A. Ries ’18, and his college sweetheart and wife, Ruth (Worbois) Ries; and her brother, maintenance engineer and former superintendent of buildings and grounds, Herschel C. Ries ’44 and wife Ruth “Sammie” (Samuels ’43) Ries.