Release Date: 
Sunday, January 10, 2021

Longest-serving Trustee Mary Lane reflects on 20 years as she retires from the Board

Mary Lane was the longest-serving member on the HFC Board of Trustees until her retirement in December.
Mary Lane was the longest-serving member on the HFC Board of Trustees until her retirement in December.

Mary Lane, who was a member of the HFC Board of Trustees for 20 years – making her the longest-serving member when she retired – comes from a family of educators spanning at least six generations.

“I’m proud of that fact,” said Lane, of Dearborn, whose term ended Dec. 31, 2020 (along with fellow trustee Dr. Michael Meade, who also retired from the Board).

Community college success story

Born in Kalamazoo, Lane – the eldest of five children – grew up and graduated from what is now Forest Hills Central High School in Grand Rapids, where her father was assistant principal. She began her education at Grand Rapids Community College – when it was Grand Rapids Junior College – where she earned her associate agree in general studies.

“I came from a big family. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to the University of Michigan directly out of high school,” she said. “I received a good education at GRJC, and I’m proud to have attended a community college. I count myself as a community college success story. There are millions like me. My GRJC professors really enlightened me.”

From there, she transferred to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and her master’s degree in social work. She has been married to Amar Ourchane, an engineering supervisor at Ford Motor Co., for 35 years. Their three children, two sons and a daughter, are all alumni of the Dearborn Public Schools and are also engineers, following in their father’s footsteps.

“It’s been a great community for us to live in,” said Lane. “Our kids got a great education in Dearborn, and I’m proud of who they are.”

“Make a Lane Change!”

For more than 40 years, Lane worked with immigrants, refugees, and international citizens. She is the director emeritus of the Welcome Mat Detroit, a Global Detroit project of immigrant services. She also worked as Director of Immigration and Immigration Services for the International Institute of Metro Detroit (IIMD) and as a U.S. Department of Justice Accredited Representative at several non-profit agencies, representing and assisting immigrants on legal issues and how to become naturalized American citizens. She also taught English as a second language in a small village in Algeria, as well as immigration law at Oakland Community College.

Lane got involved in the Dearborn community in 1991 when the local district was closing schools and students were being bussed from the east side of Dearborn to the west side. Lane was concerned. Not only did she express her concerns at meetings, she formed a group called Citizens for Better Education, asking the Board to reconsider a new bond. She ran for the Board in 1999 and got elected. Her first campaign slogan was “Make a Lane Change!”

“I’m deeply honored people thought I was worthy of being elected,” she said. “I hope – I believe by the evidence of our flourishing – that I have served well. It has been a singular experience of my life that I will forever treasure.”

A lifeline for many

Throughout her tenure on the Board, Lane worked with four presidents: Andrew A. Mazzara, Gail Mee, Stanley E. Jensen, and Russell Kavalhuna. She also worked with two acting presidents, including current HFC Vice President of Financial, Facilities, IT, and Auxiliary Services John Satkowski.

According to Lane, community colleges, public education, and public services (including national parks and public libraries) are three of the greatest accomplishments of the United States.

“The community college is a real lifeline and an opportunity for so many people,” she said. “I know because I speak from experience.”

Lane can recount many good times, some difficult times, and many crazy times at the College during her 20 years on the Board.

HFC is the only community college in the state of Michigan to be affiliated with a P-12 school district. When she was first elected, Lane admitted she had misgivings about the two entities being governed by a shared board, feeling both should stand alone.

“My fellow Board members drummed into me the synergies that a linked institution could provide for a seamless path from preschool through college. Dearborn is leading the state in dual enrollment. Students are completing college work at HFC while still in high school, then transferring to a 4-year university – and we’re talking heavy caliber universities that include Harvard University, Yale University, and U-M. I realized that we didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. We’ve kept something that’s served the community well and we’re harvesting a lot of that fruit. We’ve provided a high-quality education at the district and at the College. The community has supported HFC and the district. It recognizes the value of education, and education returns the investment put into it,” she explained.

Forward-thinking education

Lane is proud of the fact that HFC has been forward-thinking during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The fact that we exist is nothing short of a miracle. We had the equivalent of decades of transformations imposed on us in nine months, and sometimes how we accommodated those changes on an hourly basis. We can’t walk outside and be the way we were a year ago. But we survived it and adapted to it. Just surviving is winning. We’ve done pretty well. We have two leaders (Kavalhuna and Dearborn Superintendent Glenn Maleyko), who are competent, compassionate, good, and ethical leaders. I feel both the College and the district can get through anything after this. I really do.”

HFC is one of the first community colleges in the state and the nation to participate in the Futures for Frontliners program, which offers free tuition to frontline workers during the pandemic. HFC’s participation recently made local and national news, including CNN.

“HFC has made tremendous progress in becoming an open, welcoming College. It’s very progressive. It’s definitely become an institution that’s taking its place in the whole world, and not just the community,” she said. “HFC is resoundingly accredited.”

More international

“HFC is a gateway for so many people who might not be able to afford a 4-year university or who need a more personal environment,” said Lane. “It provides such a quality, affordable education. It’s in the community, so it’s accessible. It has provided such a quality education and stepping stones across the rough waters of life for students in poverty or working class families, enabling them to reach the middle class. It’s contributed to creating productive citizens. Look at the diversity of the campus – students from all walks of life attend HFC. It’s a great thing in our community. It’s the heart of our city.”

In her 20 years on the Board, Lane has seen the College become more global and international, which is a point of pride for her.

“The unique Arabic Cultural Studies program and the Henry Ford II Honors Program are highlights,” she said. “HFC is more integrated into the community with more rich diversity and outreach. My hope is that HFC could pioneer ethnic and immigrant studies or American minorities. I'd like to see a continued 'philanthropy of the small': regular people donating a tree or a grocery card to help struggling students. For the future, I'd urge Trustees to make the College and district sustainable, seeing the big picture of our world. For HFC students, I'd urge them to live their best lives, becoming well-educated, productive, and content.”

Retirement plans

“I’ve had the good fortune to serve with Trustee Lane and Dr. Meade while I was the president of Henry Ford Community College. Both are outstanding public servants wholly dedicated to educating the children and youth of our community. They contributed greatly to the quality education our students receive in Dearborn schools and at HFC. I wish them the very best,” said Mazzara, who was president from 1990 to 2005.

Former Board member and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Mariam Bazzi honored Trustee Lane. "With the retirement of Mary Lane and Dr. Mike Meade, the Board is losing two invaluable members. Mary brought experience, empathy, knowledge and unquestionable loyalty and commitment to our district and students. Her impact on the district will be felt for decades to come."

Lane reflected on why she didn’t seek reelection. First, she wants to spend more time with her family. She’s also planning to volunteer within the community and take an in-person archaeology class at the University of Oxford in England. She also would like to have more time to research and write. In fact, she has recently completed and will soon publish her first novel – historical fiction – called Untold Colonial Tales, which takes place in Northampton, MA during the French and Indian War.

HFC President Russell Kavalhuna expressed gratitude to Trustee Lane for her service. "Education in a public setting is a public good -- in fact, a public right. Trustee Lane believes that deeply, and carried that ethic in a position of power that made a difference in students' lives," said Kavalhuna. "Her passionate and vigorous support of public education was always evident. There are thousands of examples over the 20 years who can say the same thing about Trustee Lane. She should be proud of taking on the tough fights, saying the unpopular things, and having the wisdom to make the tough calls.

"I always benefitted from her giving me her candid, honest perspective," he added. "We had a partnership in our mission and our devotion to being truthful to each other. I appreciate her support of me, and I will do all I can to follow the example she set. I will miss working with her on the Board."

Lane is ending her Board tenure on a high note. “I’ve spoken with my voice. Now, new and younger voices need to speak. I’m turning it over, which is a great aspect of our democratic system. Others will bring new ideas and fresh voices,” she said. “I’m proud to have been on the Board and played a role in the success of both the College and the district. Some of my best memories have been from serving on the Board. It brings me to tears. It was such a pleasure that I’ve been able to walk down this road of life with so many fabulous people. The people in Dearborn are amazing. I have so many memories and I’m grateful be part of it. I’m leaving it in good hands.”