Remembering Johanna Lee Exner ’08


By Alana Duerr ’08

Strong, smart, witty, self-deprecating, kind, thoughtful, caring, hardworking, thrifty, creative—these are the first adjectives that come to mind when I think of Jo. Like all of us in our class, I have many fond memories of Jo, and words do not describe our collective heartbreak when we found out that her life had unexpectedly ended this summer after a very brief battle with cancer.

Given Webb’s small class sizes, each person leaves an indelible mark on his or her class, and the Class of 2008 is no exception. Jo was the girls’ girl who could keep up with the guys and put them in their place when needed. She was quick with a quippy (and often self-deprecating) joke and a laugh. She was also smart and driven, and she and her thesis partner won the Lewis Nixon Memorial Prize at graduation.

Jo not only had an impact on our class but on all of Webb while we were on campus. Jo loved music, played piano, and graced the Webb Family Singers with her voice over her four years at Webb, and she also served as the social chair for at least two years. She came up with party themes and always selflessly lent a hand to help people find clothes, make clothes, go thrift store shopping, and do the girls’ (and sometimes the boys’) hair and makeup.

After Webb, Jo moved to Ft. Lauderdale. She was the first person in our class to endeavor to earn a professional engineers’ license, and, of course, she passed. In the midst of her professional success at Murray and Associates, she met her husband Mark. They had their first daughter, Kelsey, in 2016, and their second daughter, Colleen, in 2018. She was a loving and devoted wife and mother. In early 2019, they relocated from the Fort Lauderdale area to Houston.

Jo’s Memorial Service was held on August 3, 2019, outside Houston, attended by friends, family, and over twenty Webb alumni. There were lots of hugs and tears, but also a lot of laughter as we remembered all of the wonderful times with her.

Jo is the first Webb Alumna to leave this earth, and we can all agree that it was far too soon. If you have any pictures or memories of Jo that you’d like to share with Mark, their girls, or her family, please send them to me at rememberingjoexner@gmail.com. A college savings account has been set up for Jo’s girls, and if anyone is interested in supporting them, please click below.

Johanna at Professor Stephan's Retirement in 2007
Johanna at Professor Bruce Stephan’s Retirement Party in 2007
Johanna at Webb Idol 2006
Johanna singing at Webb Idol in 2006
Johanna at Webstock 2007
Johanna singing at Webstock in 2007