Lillian Blanche Stevens, a retired Baltimore County business teacher and administrator, died Oct. 6 at the Edenwald retirement community in Towson. She was 96 and had lived in Rodgers Forge.
Anita Sue Tews, a niece who lives in Federal Way, Wash., said the cause of death had not been determined.
Ms. Stevens was born on a farming homestead north of Edison, Neb. After graduating from a special program at Edison High School, she began teaching at 17 in a one-room, eight-grade rural schoolhouse in Webster County, Neb. She told family members she started a fire of corncobs and coal in a stove each morning to warm the classroom.
"She was an independent person who started teaching when she was so young," said Donna J. Carr, a retired Overlea High School business teacher who lives in Parkville. "She cared about her job, her teachers and her students."
Ms. Stevens later earned a bachelor of science degree in business education at the University of Nebraska and taught at Gothenburg High School in Gothenburg, Neb., from 1942 to 1946. She later received master's degrees from the University of Maryland, College Park and the Johns Hopkins University, where she belonged to the Hopkins Club.
Ms. Stevens moved to Baltimore in 1946 to be a business teacher at Dundalk High School. A year later, she was transferred to a business teaching position at Franklin High School in Reisterstown. Friends said she did not have a car and traveled by bus from her Rodgers Forge home to the school. In 1953, Ms. Stevens purchased a Chevrolet, obtained her driver's license, and during the summer drove to the state of Washington with her mother to visit family.
Friends said she always rose early in the morning and appeared in the classroom regardless of the weather. One morning, when a school official decided to close schools because of snow and he had trouble reaching her, he sent a telegraph messenger to her home.
In 1957, Ms. Stevens transferred to Towson High School and served as chairwoman of the business department.
"More than the classroom subjects, she taught manners, ethics, good conduct and business dress," said Paul Plevyak, a fellow teacher and friend. "She often taught the seniors, and they would be going out on job interviews. She gave them advice: 'You cannot make a second first impression.'"
He said she also maintained contacts with the business community and would send her students on job interviews.
"She gave of herself and was beloved by her students," said Mr. Plevyak. "She also helped new teachers to grow in their careers."
In 1966, she was promoted to supervisor of business education, a position she held until her retirement in 1984.
"Blanche welcomed new teachers and gave good ideas for handling kids," said Walter Snyder, the school system's retired director of personnel. "She was a hard-working, creative teacher who worked hard in selecting our new teachers."
During the first two years in the system's central office, she served part time with the Maryland State Department of Education as a coordinator for programs and activities of the Future Business Leaders of America, a national student organization that promoted personal growth, work habits, and skills and leadership.
"She was an excellent teacher and a champion for her students," said Mr. Plevyak. "She assisted business teachers in the county high schools with improving their teaching and classroom management skills."
Ms. Stevens was a lifetime member of the Maryland State Teachers Association, the National Education Association and the National Business Education Association. She served a term as president of the Maryland Business Education Association.
Friends recalled her as a thoughtful and generous person. "It was difficult to reciprocate her generosity," Mr. Plevyak said.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Oct. 27 at Edenwald, 800 Southerly Road in Towson.