She was born and grew up in the Netherlands and came to this country with her husband, Rob Selman, in 1964.
They and their children lived in Berkeley, Calif. and in Wheaton, Ill. before moving to Hyde Park in 1973, when Rob became a faculty member at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Following up on her interest in children and education, Gemma attended graduate school at Loyola University and earned a Master’s degree from the Erikson Institute of Early Childhood Education in 1976. Soon after she joined the Child Life program at Michael Reese Hospital, a pioneering play-and -learn program for hospitalized children and their families. Soon she became the director of this program, staying at Michael Reese through the 1980s.
Gemma continued her work for child development in several positions throughout the Chicago area, and joined Harold Washington College as an adjunct faculty member in the Human Services/Child Development Associate program. She was a training coordinator for Head Start teachers and teaching assistants throughout the city, and taught classes in the CDA program until her retirement in 2002. Gemma impacted the lives and careers of many CDA Candidates and students with her straightforward, gentle and caring manner.
Early on she volunteered at the schools where her two daughters were enrolled, especially in the music and art programs. Music was one of her passions, as was her love of the outdoors – Chicago’s parks and the dunes around Lake Michigan. After retirement she spent much time in France, where her family had traditional ties, and she introduced her grandchildren to France and to Europe.
She is survived by her husband Rob, her daughters Barbara and Robin, her granddaughters Clio, Saskia, and Viveca, family members in Philadelphia, the Netherlands and France and many friends around the world.
A memorial service will be held in the spring.
If you wish to honor her memory with a gift, please consider the Southern Poverty Law Center, Doctors Without Borders, the National Resources Defense Council, Heifer, or a charity of your choice.