Dr Johanna Green - teacher, scholar, and friend

Published: 27 July 2023

A tribute to the life of Dr Johanna Green who has died five years after being diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer.

Dr Johanna Green has died age 39, just five years after being diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer.

The much-loved University of Glasgow Information Studies senior lecturer and expert in book history and digital humanities, disliked when people suggested she was “battling” cancer or indeed “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 absolutely adored and was exceptional at.

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 researchers. Johanna started the 2019 event but was not strong enough to do the full walk, so nine of her University of Glasgow colleagues – calling themselves the UofG Semi-Colons – did the walk for her and raised over £4000 in less than two days.

Johanna 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 Johanna was diagnosed at 35.

Speaking in 2019, Johanna 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.”

Dr Johanna Green at Cancer Research UK#s Sine Night Walk 2019. Photo credit Mark Anderson

Johanna was an educator through and through, and used her lived experience 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.

But Johanna was so much more than her cancer diagnosis. She was an exceptional teacher, innovator, scholar, and friend. She loved teaching and working on the beloved manuscripts held in the University Library’s Archives & Special Collections.

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 at the Winter Graduations 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 global Covid pandemic in March 2020. Johanna’s award highlighted “her delivery of virtual teaching sessions which were viewed by students as the ‘gold standard’ for online learning”.  The standing ovation highlighted how much she was loved by colleagues and students alike.

Since news of her death, there has been an outpouring of tributes across social media platforms from those who knew her not just in Glasgow, but across Scotland, around the UK and internationally, such was Johanna’s reach.

Born in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear on 21 July 1983, Johanna was the only child of Wynn and Dave. She 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 University Library’s Archives and Special Collections. She was later promoted to the role of Senior Lecturer.

Colleagues said Johanna’s classes were characterised by innovation, as she fearlessly embraced technology to create immersive learning experiences. Johanna's 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.

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 died on Thursday 20 July 2023 in The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice, Bellahouston Park, Glasgow with her parents by her side. Johanna would have celebrated her 40th birthday on 21 July 2023.

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

Funeral Details

Friends and family are invited to attend Johanna's funeral service on 8 August 2023, at 10am, at Linn Crematorium in Glasgow. The ceremony will also be live-streamed for those who cannot attend - details to follow.

Visit here for full details of Johanna's funeral arrangements.

First published: 27 July 2023