Laura E. LeMire, chair of the engineering department at the Community College of Baltimore County who had been an outstanding high school and collegiate athlete, died Thursday of breast cancer at her Catonsville home.
She was 57.
"It is a sad conversation, but I will tell you we all adored Laura LeMire, and I'd describe her as the quintessential community college faculty member," said Sandra L. Kurtinitis, president of the Community College of Baltimore County.
"She was extraordinarily devoted to her students, and she was an excellent example of what a smart woman can do in a field that is mainly male-dominated," said Dr. Kurtinitis.
"Laura was a little bit shy but very much in a positive way. She had a lovely smile, and whenever you complimented her, she'd respond with that smile. She was a genuinely sweet person," Dr. Kurtinitis said. "She just adored her students, and they adored her."
"Her death is a huge loss for our school, students and community," said Jack McLaughlin, dean of the Community College of Baltimore County's School of Technology, Art and Design, which includes the engineering department. "She was dedicated to her profession and our students. She was a competitive person but wanted to have fun."
Laura Ellen LeMire, the daughter of Francis Joseph LeMire, associate dean of students at Towson University, and Connie Rudich LeMire, a social worker, was born in Detroit and moved with her family to Towson in 1963.
Ms. LeMire was a 1977 graduate of Towson High School, where she was a member of the field hockey, basketball, and track-and-field team.
At Towson High, she named Outstanding Female Athlete, and as a member of the National Junior Olympics track-and-field team in 1976, she placed eighth in the long jump. She will join the Towson High Athletic Hall of Fame this fall, family members said.
Ms. LeMire was a magna cum laude graduate at the University of Maryland, where she earned a bachelor's degree in 1981 in civil engineering. She earned a master's degree in geotechnical and geo-enviornmental engineering in 1983, also from College Park.
While at College Park, she played lacrosse and field hockey, and was a member of the track-and-field team.
She was named an All-American in field hockey and lacrosse, and was a member of Maryland's lacrosse national championship team in 1981. She was also a member of the university's field hockey team that made the national semifinals.
She was also a member of the U.S. national field hockey team, the first Maryland athlete to be named to the squad, family members said, and would have participated in the 1980 Olympics had the U.S.not boycotted the Summer Games, which were held in Moscow that year.
She also received the Atlantic Coast Conference Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Athletic Achievement, University of Maryland M Club Founder Award and the M Club Charles H. Beebe Memorial Award for Leadership.
From 1983 to 1997, she was supervising engineer for the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s electrical distribution division and also served as director of corporate purchasing.
In 1988, Ms. LeMire earned a master's degree in business from what is now Loyola University Maryland, and a second master's degree in 2010 in environmental and environmental health engineering from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
After leaving BGE in 1997, Ms. LeMire was director of women's sports for STX, the Baltimore-based sports equipment maker known for its lacrosse sticks.
She joined the Community College of Baltimore County in 2007 when she was named chair of its engineering department, which is located at both the Catonsville and Essex campuses. She had not retired at her death.
Mr. McLaughlin was a member of the committee at the college that hired Ms. LeMire.
"She was the combination of professionalism and enthusiasm during her interview," Mr. McLaughlin said. "Candidates had to give a sample lesson. She was enthusiastic and had the ability to engage the entire committee. She really stood out, and it was obvious she had a passion for teaching and helping students, and she did that during her short time with us."
"She gave her all to her students, and because of Laura's reputation, the college received many National Science Foundation grants that helped the students," Dr. Kurtinitis said. "They would say, 'We want Laura to be the project director' when they gave us a grant."
"She was very outgoing. Her office was four doors from mine, and I could hear her engaging with people and laughter coming down the hallway," Mr. McLaughlin said. "Our students were crazy about her."
Dr. Kurtinitis said that every year, Ms. LeMire would march in the annual Fourth of July parades in Dundalk, Towson and Catonsville.
"If she was feeling well enough, Laura would show up and walk the entire way," Dr. Kurtinitis said. "She'd have that sweet smile on her face, and it was obvious she was very proud to be a part of the college."
The longtime Catonsville resident enjoyed playing soccer, softball, flag football, indoor volleyball, lacrosse and field hockey. She played softball for the Babe Ruth Museum from 1991 until its final season in 2012, and also played summer lacrosse with her daughter.
Ms. LeMire was a member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter of the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame,University of Maryland Hall of Fame, was recognized as a Maryland Sports Legend by the Maryland Sports Legends Museum, and was the first woman to serve as president of the M Club at the University of Maryland, College Park.
She also liked to garden and travel.
Ms. LeMire continued working through her illness.
"I always thought if anyone can beat cancer, it was going to be Laura," Mr. McLaughlin said. "She was still coming to work a week before her passing."
A celebration of Ms. LeMire's life will be held from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sept. 9 at the Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville, in its Center for the Arts, 800 S. Rolling Road.
Ms. LeMire is survived by a son, William Thomas Rees III of Washington; her daughter, Katherine Elizabeth Rees of New York City; her parents, of Towson; a brother, Michael LeMire of Easton; a sister, Andrea "Andi" O'Connor of Cockeysville; and her companion of five years, Stephen Zelenak of Catonsville. A marriage to William Thomas Rees Jr. ended in divorce.