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Cougar Characters: Jeana Howald

Softball coach makes courageous decision to stay in the game

For 32 years, softball coach Jeana Howald has invested in MVNU.

As an MVNU student, she fell in love with the campus and the atmosphere. She played basketball, volleyball and tennis for the Lady Cougars and was eventually inducted into the Cougar Wall of Fame. In short, MVNU became her home.

“After finishing up my master’s degree in education, the opportunity opened up for me to come back, and I was excited to continue my career at MVNU,” Howald said.

She took on the role of head basketball coach, head softball coach and professor of physical education.

She quickly realized that coaching two sports while teaching was too much and devoted her career to softball. She enjoyed basketball but loved being involved in outdoor sports.

Throughout her 27 years of coaching, Howald has accrued 551 wins and 502 losses. She led the Lady Cougars to the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament 10 times, earned numerous Coach of the Year honors and was named NCCAA East Region Coach of the Year eight times.

But in 2012, her world flipped upside down.

Howald was in her 24th year as head softball coach at MVNU when she was diagnosed with melanoma in her eye. Melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer.

“That is a day I will definitely never forget,” Howald said. “It took me a few days to fully comprehend all the doctor told me. I didn't want to talk about it, as if it would go away. I was scared.”

Howald explained that cancer is a day-by-day experience, with some days more challenging than others.

She lost most of her sight in one eye, and it continues to deteriorate. Every five weeks she travels to OSU to receive an injection in her eye to prevent hemorrhaging and swelling in the optic nerve.

Despite these challenges, Howald still successfully coaches softball and is the assistant director of athletics at MVNU. Friends in the athletic department help make it possible. Understanding colleagues “have stepped up and helped me through some of my toughest days,” she said.

Howald is also grateful for the support from her team.

“With softball being a sport where the ball travels quickly, it has forced me to coach from inside the dugout the past couple of years,” Howald explained. “It is difficult for me to judge how fast the ball is traveling. My players do a great job of protecting me in the dugout and looking out for me.”

Howald expressed her genuine gratitude for the support she has received from colleagues, friends and family, even from states away.

Howald said she has learned to stay positive, rely on God and use her sense of humor to see the good in the toughest situations.

“God is in control,” she said. “I am so thankful He has seen me through thus far. He is so good.”

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