Johanna Green

Born: July 21, 1983;

Died: July 20, 2023

Dr Johanna Green, who has died aged 39, was a senior lecturer in information studies at Glasgow University and an expert in book history and digital humanities. She was an exceptional teacher, innovator and scholar and loved teaching and working on the beloved manuscripts held in the university library’s archives and special collections.

Born in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, she was the only child of Wynn and Dave and moved to Glasgow to study at the university where she would later teach. While doing her PhD, she worked in various jobs in both the university’s college of arts and the then school of psychology. In 2016, she was appointed as a lecturer in information studies working closely with colleagues in the archives and special collections. She was later promoted to the role of senior lecturer.

Colleagues said Dr Green’s classes were characterised by innovation, as she fearlessly embraced technology to create immersive learning experiences. Her expertise in digital scholarship and virtual reality led to the development of pioneering educational apps, opening new doors of understanding for her students in the realms of history, text, and technology.

Diagnosed with bowel cancer five years ago, she disliked it when people suggested she was “battling” cancer or was “brave”. She wasn’t in a fight with her disease: in fact, a year on from her initial diagnosis she said life was “amazing” and credited her adopted city of Glasgow for helping her recover, as well as the world-class care she received from the NHS doctors and nurses throughout the city. She was determined to make a difference, and more importantly get back to teaching her students – a job she adored.

On the first anniversary of being diagnosed with bowel cancer she acted as guest of honour at the Shine Night Walk, a 10k in Glasgow to raise money to help Cancer Research UK. She started the 2019 event but was not strong enough to do the full walk, so nine of her colleagues – calling themselves the UofG Semi-Colons – did the walk for her and raised over £4,000 in less than two days.

Dr Green used the Cancer Research UK event to highlight her story in the media and to encourage everyone, particularly younger people like herself, to check for signs of the deadly disease. This was a cause that was also successfully taken up by bowel cancer campaigner Dame Deborah James on the UK stage, who like Dr Green was diagnosed at 35.

Speaking in 2019, Dr Green said: “I never thought bowel cancer could happen to me in my mid-30s. I thought it was a disease that happened to older people. Now I’m keen to raise awareness that bowel cancer can happen to young people too. If I’d known more about the risks and the symptoms, perhaps things would have been different for me, and the cancer caught earlier.”

As an educator through and through, Dr Green used her experience of cancer to help educate others. She contributed to the patient advisory group for Bowel Research UK and was a member of Bowl Cancer UK’s Never Too Young working group as well as working as patient educator for the School of Medical Education at King's College London.

In 2020, she returned to teaching after surgery and extensive chemotherapy, which colleagues said was “a testament to her unwavering passion for her students and her field of expertise”.

She received a rapturous standing ovation in December 2021 when she was presented with a teaching excellence award by the university in recognition of her outstanding contributions to teaching and support. These graduations were the first in-person events at Glasgow since the start of the pandemic. Dr Green’s award highlighted “her delivery of virtual teaching sessions which were viewed by students as the ‘gold standard’ for online learning”.

She continued to inspire and engage, even in the face of secondary cancers, demonstrating a resilience that touched the hearts of all who knew her. She retired in April 2023 but remained part of information studies as an honorary research fellow.

Johanna is survived by her parents, Wynn and Dave, her much-loved cat Cora, and a wide circle of friends.