Janell Lang, 66, who went from English major and teacher to longtime dean of health sciences at Owens Community College, died Wednesday in her Ottawa Hills home.
Doctors told her in September, 2010, that she had stage-four cancer of indeterminate origin and counseled that she focus on quality of life. For her, that meant "I'm going to fight," her daughter, Elizabeth, said.
She started chemotherapy after recovering from surgery.
"She knew it was what was going to help her. That's what her mentality was," her daughter said. "She was a very generous, wonderful woman, but she also was a woman who went after what she wanted."
Ms. Lang retired from Owens in 2007 after 36 years, the last 22 as dean of its school of health sciences.
"Deep down, her favorite thing was seeing her students succeed and seeing her chairmen and colleagues come to work every day and get to educate and [to] create opportunities for students to go out in the world and make a difference."
In 2008, Ms. Lang was hired by Mercy College of Ohio, where she was director of institutional assessment and planning. She worked from home during her illness, her daughter said.
She was born in Chicago and grew up in a suburb.
"I became an English major because of my love of reading and writing," she told The Blade in 2007. She was a graduate of Mundelein College, now part of Loyola University.
She and her husband, James, were newlyweds when he was hired to teach at Owens. She, a secretary at the school, was asked to teach after a sudden resignation. She'd never taught, but was told she'd learn how, she told The Blade.
She returned to school herself and in 1974 received a master's degree in education, curriculum, and instruction from the University of Toledo.
In time, she became dean of what became the school of arts and sciences. Then, former Owens President Dan Brown asked her to become dean of health sciences, though she had no background in health sciences. She agreed, with the proviso that she could return to her former post after a year.
During the next two decades, she put in place such programs as health information technology, occupational therapy assistant, physical therapy assistant, massage therapy, and international nursing. She was acting director at least once of almost every department.
"She was a quick study and was a very excellent listener," said Linda Myers, retired chairman of the radiologic technology program at Owens and a friend since 1974. "When both of us went to Owens Community College, it was a young college. We were not that much older than the students who were there.
"We had the opportunity to watch the college grow, and she was an integral part of the growth that took place."
By chance, many of Ms. Lang's caregivers during her illness were Owens alumni.
"She was so proud to see so many of them do so well," her daughter said. "It was gratifying to hear them say what a great education they got."
In 2005, Ms. Lang was recognized by Owens with a Presidential Citation Award for her service to higher education.
She was a former president of the executive board of directors of the National Network of Health Care Programs in Two-Year College.
She was married to James Brady Lang, an associate professor of communications/humanities at Owens. He died Aug. 3, 2005.
Surviving are her daughter, Elizabeth Lang; son, James Patrick Lang, and sisters, Jean Reysa and Joyce Andrews.
The family will receive friends from 4-7 p.m. Monday at the Walker Funeral Home, with a prayer service at 6 p.m. in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Rosary Cathedral.
The family suggests tributes to the Janell B. Lang Scholarship Fund at Owens Community College or to Mercy College of Ohio.