Jean Turner Schreier, a retired Anne Arundel Community College dean who earlier had been chair of the college's English department, died Saturday of cancer at her Winthrop House residence in Guilford.
She was 76.
"Jean embodied absolute integrity. She lived what she believed — always and all ways. She was a brilliant strategic thinker and an extraordinary communicator," said Martha A. Smith, former president of Anne Arundel Community College.
"These and her many other talents together with who she was as a person made her a natural leader — whether in an official role or not — as department chair, a dean or providing tremendous leadership and energy reinvigorating the college's strategic planning process and having fun doing so," she said.
The daughter of John R. Turner, an attorney, and Rozanne Truscott Turner, a high school English teacher, Jean Turner was born and raised in Shawnee, Okla.
"Mom was raised in a family of 'yellow dog Democrats,' and early on she absorbed an allegiance to New Deal politics and Woody Guthrie's notion of the common good," said her son, Jesse Schreier of Needham, Mass. "Throughout her life, that allegiance never buckled."
After graduating from Holdenville High School in Holdenville, Okla., she earned a bachelor's degree in 1963 and a master's degree in 1965, both from the University of Oklahoma in Norman.
She earned a doctorate in American literature from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where her dissertation was on feminist ideology in the works of American novelist Edith Wharton.
During her graduate school years at Wisconsin, Dr. Turner Schreier, then a teaching assistant in the department of English, played an instrumental role in establishing a union of teaching assistants.
The TAA was the first such union in the country to win collective-bargaining rights and a contract for teaching assistants, according to Shirley C. Parry, a friend of 50 years and a retired member of the AACC English faculty.
After moving to Baltimore in 1970, Dr. Turner Schreier was a founding member of the South Baltimore Commune, which was guided by the principle "from each according to her ability, to each according to her need," family members said.
The commune also published a weekly newspaper, The South Baltimore Voice, that was devoted to the politics and issues that affected its blue-collar readership.
Dr. Turner Schreier joined the faculty of the college in 1970 as a professor of English and was named chair of its English department in 1985.
From 2001 until she retired in 2007, she was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. During her tenure at the college, she was elected chair of both the academic forum and faculty senate.
"If it's fourth and goal, you want Turner on your team," said Thomas Florestano, former president of the college.
"I would also want Jean at kickoff, at the first down, at all downs, on the offense, on the defense, on special teams, on the coaching staff, because she could do it all. She was that extraordinary," Dr. Smith said.
A lifelong feminist, Dr. Turner Schreier agreed to assume the role in 1981 of the named plaintiff, Anita McCain, a former professor who quit and moved to Oklahoma, in a class action suit that filed in 1978 that alleged the college discriminated against women faculty members in hiring, salary, promotion and employee health benefits.
Dr. Turner Schreier also claimed discrimination because birth control pills for women were not included in health care insurance.
"Men like to make a big deal out of the birth control pills, thinking it makes us look silly," she told The Baltimore Sun in a 1983 article, "but vasectomies are available to men under the insurance."
After a protracted legal battle, the case was finally settled in 1983, with the college paying the plaintiffs $550,000 in back pay and instituting an equitable hiring and promotion system.
"Jean was one of the strongest and most courageous people I've ever known," Dr. Parry said. "She had an incisive mind, a wonderfully caustic sense of humor, and a kind and generous spirit. She was a great mother to her kids, adored her grandchildren, and was a loyal and loving friend."
Dr. Turner Schreier also enjoyed singing. She was a member of Grace United Methodist Church, where she sang in the choir. She was also a member of the Charm City Labor Chorus.
"She knew every Methodist hymn, bluegrass gospel tune and union anthem," said her daughter, Cory Mian of Somerville, Mass.
"I remember so fondly driving around Baltimore on many a sunny Sunday afternoon and turning up the volume on an old Ralph Stanley tune, blaring it out the car window and singing along with Mom," Ms. Mian said.
An outdoorswoman and a lifelong sports enthusiast, Dr. Turner Schreier remained a devoted fan of the University of Oklahoma football team.
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"She was ready at a moment's notice to lead her brothers and cousins in a rousing verse or two of 'Boomer Sooner,'" the university's fight song, said her husband of 42 years, James Schreier, who taught English at City College.
She was also an Orioles and Ravens fan.
Dr. Turner Schreier enjoyed playing golf and trout fishing at the family's summer home in Colorado's Fryingpan Valley. She was also a fan of Mariposa lilies, which are found primarily in the West.
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. June 24 at Grace United Methodist Church, 5705 N. Charles St.
In addition to her husband, son and daughter, she is survived by two brothers, John T. "Scott" Turner and David M. "Mike" Turner, both of Holdenville; four grandchildren; and nine nieces and nephews.