Barbara died Nov. 2, 2020, of metastatic chordoma at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, five years after the diagnosis of the skull base primary tumor. She battled this disease valiantly and without complaint, enduring four operations, three courses of radiation, and months of hospitalization. We lost a truly selfless classmate that day. 

Barbara was born in Philadelphia at Pennsylvania Hospital Jan. 9, 1954. Her parents (Altimus and Rita) moved the family from South Philadelphia to suburban Melrose Park in 1962. Barbara graduated from Cheltenham High School in 1971. She started at Smith College but after two years transferred to Princeton, where she majored in biochemistry, graduating magna cum laude. Her senior thesis demonstrated that the extent of polysaccharide cross linkage in bacterial cell wall is dependent upon bacterial growth rate. 

At Princeton she met her husband of 45 years, classmate Dan Dempsey, who was a member of the Nassoons. Along with Betsy MacMillan ’74 and Vickery Hall ’75, both of whom also married Nassoons (Buzz Schmidt ’74 and Bill Kehlenbeck ’75 respectively), Barbara was an original Nassoon “groupie,” faithfully (and patiently) attending almost all Nassoon local shows, arch sings, and social activities, and many Nassoon reunions as recently as 2019. 

After their October 1975 wedding in the Princeton Chapel, Barbara and Dan moved to Rochester, N.Y. At the University of Rochester, Barbara earned an MBA while also working full-time as a lab tech in the hormone receptor lab in UR’s biochemistry department, and Dan attended medical school. 

Following four cold and snowy years on Lake Ontario, Barbara crossed Rochester off Dan’s surgical residency match list. Happily, he matched at Penn, and they moved to Philadelphia, where Barbara started a 40-year career in market research and sales forecasting with McNeil Pharmaceutical, a Johnson and Johnson subsidiary. For the last 35 years, Barbara and Dan have lived just outside Philadelphia in Melrose Park. 

Barbara will be remembered for her kindness, generosity of spirit, sense of humor, humility, and dedication to family and friends. She loved reading fiction, cooking and baking, the beach, golden retrievers, and conversation. But mostly she loved her family and friends. Her devotion to her family was selfless and loving, a true model for the rest of us. 

In addition to Dan, Barbara’s survivors include their son, Patrick Dempsey, and his wife, Rebecca; and her sister, Laurel Seneca and spouse Brenda Leclerc. We share their loss. 

Undergraduate Class of 1975