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COEHS mourns passing of Dr. Deborah Rifenbary

Deborah Rifenbary

The College of Education and Human Sciences is deeply saddened by the unexpected death of our former colleague Deborah Rifenbary.

Former Interim Dean Rifenbary was a deeply caring person who brought hope and a special insight to the many lives she touched. Her long efforts for the COEHS made an indelible mark on students, staff, and faculty, one that will not be forgotten anytime soon. Her advice and guidance helped the college realize its enduring mission of enhancing the well-being of children and their families, both here in New Mexico and abroad.

Dr. Rifenbary retired in July 2020 from the COEHS after a long career in leadership roles within and beyond the college. She served as Interim Dean of the COEHS from 2019-2020; Associate Dean for Curriculum, Faculty & Student Affairs from 2010 – 2019; and Department Chair of Individual, Family and Community Education from 2004-2010. She began at UNM in 1990 as an Assistant Professor of Counselor Education after completing her EdD in Counselor Education at the University of Virginia. A licensed professional counselor in New Mexico (LPCC), she was also a past President of the Rocky Mountain Association for Counselor Education and Supervision.

In 2019, Interim Dean Rifenbary noted that her focus: “has always been to create a collegial environment that promotes student success and faculty development.” A sense of community was always a top priority for her.

photo of Deborah Rifenbary with several young female students sitting at desks

International education has long been a passion of hers. From her early career teaching at the John F. Kennedy German American School in Berlin, Deb maintained a connection with Germany and Austria. She has served as the coordinator of the Student Teachers in Austria Reach Success (STARS) program, a student teacher exchange between the COEHS and the Teachers College at the University of Vienna. The program included exchange of student teachers. She also hosted visiting German teachers in a cultural program.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the University of New Mexico Global Education Office Emergency Fund through the UNM Foundation