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Columbia Missourian

Mary Jane Lang Grundler was an MU professor, staunch advocate of excellence

By John Farmer de la Torre
December 27, 2012 | 7:13 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Mary Jane Grundler was a staunch proponent of excellence in education.

Dr. Mary Jane Grundler died Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. She was 93.

She had been living in a assisted care facility for the past 10 years until the time of her death, said her nephew Lester Lang of Independence.

"She was a taskmaster of the highest standard, probably one of the last people doing that," said Richard Erickson, who was Dr. Grundler's supervisor while he chaired MU's then-Department of Practical Arts and Vocational-Technical Education.

Dr. Grundler retired after 38 years of service to MU as professor emeritus of education in 1985.

"She was a perfectionist," Jo Behmyer, a friend, former student and employee of Dr. Grundler's over 40 years, said. "It was hard to get an A in her class. She was very thorough in her teaching, and if you worked hard, you couldn't help but learn."

Dr. Grundler was born Oct. 26, 1919, in Wentworth to Charles F. Lang and Angeline (Baker) Lang. She married Francis E. "Frank" Grundler, a civil engineer, on Dec. 26, 1963, at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Pierce City. 

Dr. Grundler received her doctorate in education degree from MU in 1960 and was known professionally by her maiden name, Mary Jane Lang.  Dr. Grundler had no children.

"The university was her family," Lonnie Echternacht, MU professor emeritus for business education from 1975 to 2000, said. "She kept track of where they would teach.  It was a way to continue mentoring."

Dr. Grundler was interested in her students becoming the best teachers they could be, and occasionally she learned from her students. Shortly after Dr. Grundler's marriage, Behmyer said she taught her friend how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey.

The result was satisfactory, though the bird was small, Behmyer said. Knowing Dr. Grundler, though the next year's turkey was likely much improved, she said.

Improvement was a theme throughout Dr. Grundler's life. Before earning her doctorate, she received her associate in education degree from Joplin Junior College and her bachelor's degree and master's degree in education from MU in 1944 and 1947, respectively.

Dr. Grundler began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in Jasper County in 1940. She retired from teaching in 1985 after decades of service to MU, and throughout that time she was a role model to teachers in training, Echternacht said.

"She would never dream of not conducting herself as a teacher. She wanted to be a model of professionalism," Echternacht said. "She was loyal. She didn't grumble.  She took her assignments very seriously."

Dr. Grundler's longevity may be due to her staying physically active, Behmyer said. She never learned how to drive nor did she ever have a license, so she walked, a lot. Echternacht confirms sightings of Dr. Grundler about town.

"Even after retirement, I would see her way up town, it was quite ways," Echternacht said.

Dr. Grundler was also very involved in her profession. She served in numerous university, state and national organizations, where she provided extensive leadership. She has two scholarships in her name for graduate business teacher education students at MU — The Dr. Mary Jane Lang Graduate Scholarship and the Dr. Mary Jane Lang Doctoral Scholarship.

Dr. Grundler's nephew, Les Lang, benefited from her teaching in many ways.

"I got my doctorate in 1982," Lang said. "I would spend my summers at the university, and I remember a lot of times sitting and talking about things. She had a huge influence on me."

Lang thinks her legacy will last through her students.

"The greatest thing is when a student says she had an influence on their lives," he said. "She just had a love of teaching, a love for the kids, and trying to make sure they got something out of school, from even when she taught elementary school, there was a bond there, and she had knack for it."

She was a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where she served on the parish council and served in liturgical roles for many years.

Dr. Grundler is survived by one brother, Jim Lang in Aztec, N.M.; and numerous nephews and nieces.

Two brothers, Lloyd Lang and Charles P. Lang, died earlier.

Visitation will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 1115 Locust St., with the recitation of the rosary at 11:45 a.m. Services will follow at noon at the church. 

Tributes can be posted at memorialfuneralhomeandcemetary.com.