School navigation

Law School Pioneer Dies

June 14, 2004

Alice Ruth Gantenbein, an important figure in the law school’s history, died November 27, 2003, at age 89. Born in Victoria, British Columbia, Gantenbein grew up in Astoria and later graduated from the University of Oregon. She went on to study modern dance at Seattle’s Cornish School for the Performing Arts before entering the law school.


Following her studies, Gantenbein became a social worker in Portland. On June 28, 1940, she married John Gantenbein, dean of Northwestern College of Law and a Multnomah County judge.


Faced with a drop in enrollment at the law school due to World War II, the Gantenbeins devoted their personal funds to the institution and worked nights at the Swan Island shipyards to keep the school open. When John went overseas with the military, Alice took over the operation of the law school. She remained deeply committed to and involved with the school until 1965, when it merged with Lewis & Clark College.


After John’s death in 1976, Alice became a real estate agent in Seaside and moved to Gearhart. There she met and married Adolphe “Ade” Kerbel, M.D., of Astoria. Their happy time together was cut short by his failing health and subsequent death.


Gantenbein was active in a variety of community service activities, volunteering as a youth counselor for the multnomah County Juvenile Court and providing transportation for the disabled.


From her marriage to John, Alice is survived by her sons, John and Rick; daughter-in-law, Lydia; and two grandchildren. From her marriage to Ade, she is survived by her stepdaughters, Mary Kaye Zorich and Nan Gorger; five grandchildren; and several great-grandchildren. She is also survived by two sisters, Anne Thielmann and Dorothy Sterrett. A third sister, Jean McNeeley, predeceased her.

Share this story on

The Chronicle Magazine

Contact Us