Jane Smail, who taught piano at Kenyon and inspired her students while battling multiple sclerosis, died today in the company of her family at Autumn Health Care in Mount Vernon. She was seventy-two.
Jane was diagnosed with a slowly progressive form of the disease in 1977. Despite that setback, she was an adjunct instructor of piano in the Department of Music from 1978 to 1999 and worked in the Department of Art History as a collections librarian in the 1970s.
She was quietly accepting of her infirmity, said J. Kenneth Smail, professor emeritus of anthropology and Jane's husband of forty-nine years. "She didn't like it, but she didn't rail against it. She dealt with it, and we lived with it." They reared their sons Stephen and Eric in Gambier.
Ben Locke, Robert A. Oden Jr. Professor of Music, called her a stalwart member of the piano faculty. "She taught in lower Rosse and had a studio and, of course, she was fighting multiple sclerosis. But she was extremely determined and went above and beyond to keep serving the music department and our students.
"She loved the students and would practically hold on to the wall to even get to her practice room. She was an inspiration to her students. She had the sweetest disposition, and she would help along even the most shy of students and get them to do their best. There was great sadness when the disease made it impossible for her to continue."
Her longtime friend Jane Lentz of Gambier worked closely with her on the Quarry Chapel Restoration Committee in the middle 1970s to the early 1980s. That group was largely responsible for saving the exterior of the chapel that has in recent years been more fully restored. Jane Smail was the secretary/treasurer of the group.
"She was a good friend," Lentz said. "She was a talented and accomplished musician. She was pleasant. She taught piano lessons to a lot of people in the community, to a lot of Kenyon students."
Jane Smail was a native of Evansville, Indiana, and attended DePauw University before graduating from Indiana University in 1965 with a double major in music and philosophy. In addition to classical music, she enjoyed reading and sewing. She was involved with the children's program at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Mount Vernon.
"We had young children, and she was involved with the other young mothers," Kenneth Smail said. "She was a quiet member of the community, a quiet teacher."
In addition to her husband, Jane was survived by her sons and two grandchildren. A memorial service will be planned for a later date. Gifts in her memory may be sent to the Friends of Quarry Chapel, Post Office Box 849, Gambier, Ohio, 43022.