Maryjane “MJ” Mclendon died at Lawrence Memorial Hospital Aug. 12, 2016, aged 59, after a long illness. She was born in Iowa City, Iowa, where she was adopted by Sally B. & Frank W. Mclendon of Waterloo, Iowa, where MJ grew up and graduated from High School.
She received a bachelor’s degree in Classics from Luther College, where she was on the swim team, two Master’s degrees (in English and Counseling) from the University of Northern Iowa, and a Doctorate in English Literature from the University of Kansas. As a teenager, she was heavily involved in Girl Scouts both as a counselor at summer camp and leading groups in her community. She began teaching composition as a TA at KU and went on to teach American Literature and the Literature of the Holocaust, a course she developed in 1984 and taught until her retirement due to illness in 2011. Many of her students have said that that course changed their lives. MJ was always there for her students, even meeting some of them late at night over coffee. Except for the week after she received her doctorate and insisted on being called, "Dr. Mclendon" her students simply knew her as MJ.
During her teaching career she published or presented papers on a wide variety of authors including Chaim Potok, Willa Cather, Joseph Conrad and Elie Wiesel. She also won many teaching awards from the KU English Department.
MJ had friends from all parts of the community and was loved for her cheerful nature and her willingness to help others. She participated in many community activities including Take Back The Night, presentations on Holocaust Literature in Lawrence schools and community organizations.
MJ is survived by her partner of 32 years Betty Campbell; two stepsons; Steven Campbell of Strange, Texas; and Ben Campbell-Bradley of Kansas City. There was a memorial service at the Union Pacific Depot in North Lawrence on Oct. 2, 2016.
Memorials in her name may be sent in care of Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home to Lawrence Community Shelter and the Lawrence Humane Society.