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Obituaries » Janet M. McMahill

Janet M. McMahill

September 15, 1949 - January 1, 2023

Service Date: January 11, 2023

Funeral Home Memorial Services of Iowa

Church Ankeny First United Methodist Church

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Dr. Janet Marie McMahill passed away peacefully January 1, 2023, at Taylor House in Des Moines, Iowa, surrounded by her family. She fought many courageous battles with cancer and most recently developed complications.

A memorial service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 11, 2023, at Ankeny First United Methodist Church (206 SW Walnut St).

Jan was born September 15, 1949, to Gladys and Harold Ahlman in Postville, Iowa, the second child of three girls. She grew up in Mason City before attending Drake University in 1967.

During her undergraduate time at Drake, Jan held numerous leadership positions in the Alpha Phi Sorority. She was a candidate for Greek Week Queen, and a Miss Drake Finalist. Jan served on Drake’s National Alumni Association Board of Directors and was selected for the leadership honor society Mortar Board and the prestigious honors program, Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.

Jan graduated in 1971 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Communication, followed by a Master’s of Science in Education, Curriculum and Instruction in 1976. In 1985, Jan earned a Doctorate of Philosophy in Career and Vocational Education Leadership from Iowa State University.

Jan met Randy McMahill during her freshman year at Drake. They married on December 5, 1970 and settled in Des Moines. She began her education career teaching speech and debate at Roosevelt High School.

In 1974, they moved to Fort Dodge where Jan was the Special Projects and Grant Coordinator at Iowa Central Community College. In 1984, she became the Language, Fine Arts and Foreign Language Coordinator for the Fort Dodge Community School System. During that time, Jan and Randy adopted the joys of their life, Lindsay and Margo.

Jan became immersed in Drake in 1988 where she was part of the Teaching and Learning Faculty. In 1989, she became Associate Dean and Director of Extension of Education. During this nearly two-decade span, she worked tirelessly on Off-Campus Degree, Endorsement Programs and License Renewal Courses. One of her most treasured accomplishments was Distance Learning, where she was Co-Founder of the Iowa Distance Learning Association, Boardmember and President of United States Distance Learning Association.

Jan co-authored and administered the Teacher Quality Partnership act with Des Moines Schools which funded degrees for 30 students from under-represented populations.

In 2004, Jan became the interim Dean of the Drake School of Education. In January 2005, Jan was officially named Dean. She managed the enrollment of undergraduate and graduate programs for over 700 students during this time while also directing off-campus degree and re-licensure programs for another 9,000 teachers and administrators.

Jan served as Executive Director of Head Start programs and led an International Partnership with the University of the Andes in Santiago, Chile and the country of Kosovo and several provinces of Canada.

During her time as Dean, she devoted 10 years to building relationships with alumni and business partners to raise funding for Collier-Scripps Hall, bringing the School of Education back to the actual Drake campus. This was her favorite accomplishment. Extensive hours were spent collaborating with architects, builders, School of Education faculty and Drake Leaders which led to the dedication of the building on October 7, 2017. As a testimonial to her lifetime dedication to education, she was recently appointed to the title of Dean Emerita.

In her free time, Jan loved spending time with family and friends, especially in gatherings at their home. She enjoyed traveling, cooking, and reading. Spending time with her grandchildren brought her immense joy. Giving back to others was of paramount importance. As a member of Ankeny Methodist Church, she served on various church councils and committees.

Jan is survived by her husband of 53 years, Randy; daughters, Lindsay (Josh) Zamzow, and Margo (Geoff) Marler; grandchildren, Raiella and Graham; mother-in-law Marton McMahill, all of Ankeny; sisters, Cheryl Ahlman (Todd Smith) of Minneapolis, and Mary (Chris) Carr of Marion; and many cousins, nieces, nephews and extended family.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that any donations be directed to Ankeny First United Methodist Church. The family would like to extend their thanks to the staff at Mission Cancer and Blood and UnityPoint Health Systems for the incredible level of care she received.

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