Honoring an education champion and advocate

June 5, 2023

Laptop fund for SOAR Program recognizes the dedication that late biochemistry Lecturer Angela J. Allen had for students on what would have been her 60th birthday.

File photo of Angela Allen
Photo of CASL lecturer Angela Allen/ image courtesy Associate Professor Sheila Smith

Biochemistry Lecturer Angela J. Allen provided support, opportunities and resources to UM-Dearborn students.

Teaching at the university for 22 years, Allen served as an adviser to faculty-led student organizations that included Minority Association of Pre-med Students and Mu Phi Beta, a professional health sorority for minority women, and was an inspiration to the students who took her Natural Sciences courses.

Dr. Lindsey (Nealy) Johnson, CASL ‘15, said Allen was an outstanding educator and mentor who focused on students even in the most challenging circumstances. “Professor Allen’s passion and energy made all of us want to work hard,”  said Johnson, who graduated from medical school and is completing a family medicine residency program on the East Coast. “Despite being in hospice (after a terminal cancer diagnosis), she was still teaching. This didn't surprise me, knowing Professor Allen. She loved teaching and her students that much.”

Allen died in 2017 at age 54. But her legacy continues.

In celebration of Allen’s 60th birthday this year, a university program is raising funds to help adult learners with financial need pursue their educational goals. The Professor Angela J. Allen Laptop Loan Fund supports the purchase of new laptops that will benefit Dearborn Wolverines in the SOAR — Support, Opportunities, Advocacy and Resources — Program. The SOAR Program, whose students reflect Allen’s values of dedication and persistence, is for parents, veterans or adult learners aged 25 and older who are returning to college for their first bachelor’s degree. CASL Director of Development Diane Gulyas said $17,480 in gifts and pledges has been raised and the effort will continue throughout the year.

SOAR Director Ellen Judge-Gonzalez said Allen was more than a teacher — she was a mentor and inspiration to many. Allen, a first-generation college student who earned a master of organic chemistry degree from Wayne State University in 1993, was at the top of her class and the only woman in her graduating group. And when Allen — whose cancer previously went into remission twice — was told she had a life-limiting disease, she chose to continue teaching.

“Angela Allen was a great friend to SOAR students over the years. Like Angela, many SOAR students are the first in their families to attend university. She understood their challenges and cared deeply about their success,” Judge-Gonzalez said. “Angela always gave her time, energy and resources to the students and program. In addition to being a memorable and inspiring teacher, she was a generous, kind and compassionate person. Each time a loaner laptop goes out to a SOAR student, I think of Angela with gratitude.”

Diana M. Guzman graduated in May. Guzman said she’s thankful to dedicated professors, programs and campus resources like the Professor Angela J. Allen Laptop Loan Fund. Guzman, who benefited from the fund, said something that seems as simple as a loaned laptop can be the difference between putting education on pause or completing a degree.

”Being a single mom and working full time, I just did not have the extra cash to spare for a laptop, used or otherwise,” Guzman said. “Normally I do my assignments and readings in the evenings when the dust has settled. If it weren't for the loaner (laptop) from SOAR, I would not be where I am now — not only finishing, but graduating with honors.”

For more information about the fund or the SOAR Program, contact Judge-Gonzalez. Make a donation in honor of Allen’s 60th birthday.

Article by Sarah Tuxbury.