I am sending my sincere condolences to Jane’s family. I was a friend of hers in 1962 when we were both working at the Peace Corps for Pat Kennedy, the Director of the Division of Volunteer Support, in the Washington headquarters.
Jane and I joined this office about the same time as it was evolving from scratch. She along with several other very competent and smart young women were the core of the senior staff reporting to Pat. I was brought on as Pat’s secretary sitting just outside his office. It was heady days for all of us since we were often making up the rules and policies for how the office would function as issues and challenges came to us. There were long days and into the night discussions about how to handle a particular volunteer issue and many discussions about how best to support the Peace Corps volunteers in their assignments abroad and when and if they were sent home for health or other reasons. Jane was right in the middle of all these discussions and provided a steady hand and wonderful insights to the discourse. This is a tiny peek into Jane’s work there, which I’m sure you know a lot about. I want to share some of my personal experience, gratitude and appreciation for Jane’s mentoring and affection for me during this time and several years later.
This provides a bit of background on who I was in that environment of highly educated and smart women. I had grown up with two older brothers and three much older siblings, in a very small, rural community in Southwest Georgia. My dad was a farmer. His grandfather had homesteaded the community in 1839, so I have very deep roots there. I had a fairly shallow educational background and little world experience. After high school, I studied a year in a secretarial school in Jacksonville, Florida then moved to the D.C. area where one of my brothers lived. After a year as a secretary at the D.C. Chapter of the American Red Cross, I was fortunate to meet someone there that recommended me for a job at the Peace Corps. This was my version of winning the lottery not, however, where money was involved. It was a chance of a lifetime to experience and observe incredible models of bright, tenacious women who seized the opportunity to lead in a new institution whose mission was spreading Peace and Good Will around the world.
Jane took me under her wing as if I was her very own “cub”. She had learned that I had lost my mom to kidney disease when I was 10 years old. This might have pulled at her heart strings. Her mentoring and caring support helped me learn how to survive in that ever exciting, stimulating, changing work environment. She was always available for consultation both on the work and personal front. I had to learn to swim or sink in those rough, and tumbled waters in a dynamic situation, as well as manage my young self in a very unfamiliar social milieu in that fast moving city environment.
Two significant examples of Jane’s generous and unselfish contribution to my life’s experiences included a trip and personal tour by Jane to New York City. When she learned I had never been, she said you have to go experience NYC and arranged to take me for a weekend over the Christmas Holidays. Of course it was very festive then, even in 1962. I was like a kid in the toy store. We went to the Empire State Building, looked out over the city, had lunch and dinner at fancy restaurants, and the highlight of the trip was seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. It was magical and beautiful, especially to a country girl that had grown up on a farm in South Georgia.
The most impactful contribution and valuable gift a few years later, was guiding me to take advantage of my life’s experiences including my work in the Peace Corps Headquarters, 2 years working for the Peace Corps Director in Nepal and a year as a VISTA Volunteer in Des Moines, IA, and other work with Government agencies. She helped me apply for the College Level Exam Program (CLEP) which allows one to acquire college credit for life’s experiences. This resulted in my gaining enough college credits equal to 2 years, thus allowing me to start college as a junior. She also recommended that I apply for the College at Old Westbury where she was the Director of Admissions with an “experiential program” curriculum in which I was best suited to excel. This was a dream come true and was a gift I had never anticipated.
As part of the Old Westbury program, and because I chose to study early childhood education, I was able to work as a preschool teacher in D.C. for a year and gain college credit for that experience. It was a very rich, exciting year and I learned a great deal. I had to keep detailed notes of my work and report to my advisor at Westbury. I loved the experience and was very grateful for that opportunity. I graduated from Westbury with high marks and eventually received my Masters degree in Organizational Development from American University.
I moved on to a fulfilling career in the U.S. Government, retired and started my own consulting business with two colleagues. After fifteen years, we sold the business to another firm and I retired to the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountains. My husband (a former Peace Corps Volunteer) and I have two wonderful children and two grandchildren. I will be 82 this year and enjoy community volunteer work, biking, hiking, watercolor painting gatherings with family and friends.
THANK YOU. JANE. I’LL FOREVER BE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR LOVING KINDESS TO ME. I KNOW YOU WILL WEAR THE CROWN OF JEWELS IN THE HEAVENS BEYOND!