Lecturer Angela Allen remembered for her chemistry, life lessons

October 2, 2017

The longtime organic chemistry lecturer died Sept. 8.

Angela Allen, lecturer IV in chemistry who taught organic chemistry at UM-Dearborn for 22 years, died Sept. 8. She was 54 years old.

Allen was a mentor and inspiration to many. Colleagues remember her encouraging students to get involved on campus and in their communities, sharing positive messages on her social media channels, and energetically teaching her class even through rounds of debilitating chemotherapy.

“She didn’t only teach organic chemistry. Through her actions—always being there for her students and colleagues, seeking out ways to be a peacemaker, and having an outgoing positive attitude even when she knew it was near the end—she taught all of us how to live,” said Chemistry Associate Professor Sheila Smith, colleague and friend.

A longtime member of the campus community, Allen was active in many areas of campus. In addition to teaching organic chemistry lecture and lab, preparatory chemistry, and chemistry for non-science majors in the Department of Natural Sciences, she also served as the academic adviser to the chemistry: instructional-track majors for many years. She served as faculty adviser for several on-campus organizations, such as Minority Association of Pre-med Students (MAPS) and Mu Phi Beta, a professional health sorority for minority women. She served as CASL ombudsperson from 2007-10, and was elected council member of the local American Chemical Society Chapter many times.

With all of the knowledge Allen shared, Smith said there’s one overarching lesson that all who met Allen received: the importance of persistence.

Allen was a first-generation college student who earned a Master of Organic Chemistry degree from Wayne State University in 1993. The only woman in her graduating group, Allen was at the top of her class.

She beat her first diagnosis of cancer in 2011 into submission/remission twice.

She was a featured 2015 MHealthy champion who lost 140 pounds—and kept it off—after completing Active U.

And when the cancer returned in 2016 and she was given a short window of time, Allen chose to continue teaching her summer semester organic chemistry courses.

Lindsey Nealy (B.S. ’15)—a student of Allen’s and a founding member of Mu Phi Beta—said Allen continued to focus on her students even when making final preparations. Nealy said she’d return to campus to visit her mentor and to see how Allen was feeling.

“Despite being a hospice patient, she was still teaching. This didn't surprise me, knowing Professor Allen. She loved teaching and her students that much,” Nealy said. “When visiting her office, I once asked if she had a ride home. She replied, ‘Honey, I'm still driving. You can't stop a proud black woman.’”

Smith said Allen was dedicated to her profession and wanted to finish what she started.

“She taught until two weeks before she passed away from a cancer that was vicious. Being here is what she wanted and the department supported her,” Smith said. “Even with all she was going through, she wrote her final, graded the final and submitted her grades. Angela told me, ‘Teaching is what gets me out of bed every morning.’”

A message Allen wrote for her colleagues and students now is taped on Allen’s office door in the Science Faculty Center: “My journey is over. My battle has been won...Thank you for your love. And I love you more.”

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