As I write this, it’s the morning of May 21, 2015; a little before noon. I just left Lincoln Land. I had went in to check the lost and found for a missing flash drive and I ran into Jan Terry. I can’t tell you what her job title is, and even if I could, I wouldn’t. A job title is beneath this woman. It could never quantify how much time and effort she puts in or articulate the true nature of what it is she actually does. On this warm spring morning, I’m treated to a great conversation out on the sidewalk with Jan. Despite it being a dying art, great talks come easily with her and we’ve had plenty. Today, it’s me yammering on about my potential health problems and needing a new doctor and it’s her giving me a convincing recommendation (By the way, Jan, I can’t get in until October. Ridiculous.). That’s Jan’s style; always pointing you in the right direction and imparting wisdom to help you reconcile options with circumstance. It’s disappointing because this is presumably the last great conversation I’ll have with Jan, at least within the Lincoln Land confines. You see, Jan is retiring at the end of this month many years of service in education. At least that’s what she keeps telling everybody, yet every time I go in there, she’s still in her office; still holding down the fort.
I can recall meeting Jan. I remember walking into Lincoln Land one sweltering summer day and seeing a few faculty members standing around, having a discussion. Here was this short woman that had this air of intelligence about her and she seemed very headstrong, very loud and very confident. The word “presence” comes to mind. She was warm and welcoming as she invited a new student into her office. That was me. I was confused and clueless and I had questions galore and I was stressed and I…well, you remember school, don’t you? She set my mind at ease and we talked for at least half an hour. And she’s fascinating to talk to. One great thing about Jan is, she listens. It’s such a rare quality in human beings these days. Most people just wait to talk, but not her. She focuses, analyzes and helps you get to the root of a problem should there be one and she doesn’t stop until you’ve hit conflict resolution. Wow, someone who puts their own ego aside to help you deal with yours and actually just listens? I don’t believe I can muster a bigger compliment.
Fast forward to a few months later. It’s November 2012 and I’m a few months into my freshman year at Lincoln Land. I’m getting creamed in all of my classes. I’m putting up D’s all across the board and suddenly I’m having déjà vu like I’m in high school all over again. No one ever schooled me in the art of school. I once again found myself sitting in Jan Terry’s office. For the better part of two hours, we talked about time management, study habits, about the way I learned best, and eventually it evolved into a talk about life. She probably doesn’t remember, but I do. I climbed up to B’s that next semester and I started pulling A’s the semester after that.
This past winter, my life was nothing but car problems. One car quit working, so I bought a junker to tide me over until summer. First, the battery kept dying, then I had no heat to help me get through the bitter cold. It was Jan – as well as a few other lovely LLCC faculty members that were always finding me in the hallways to make sure I had a ride to class and back. Many times it was Jan telling me she’d pick me up personally. I never needed that ride, but it helped to know it was there waiting. The thing is, I’m not special. I was just one of her students.
Several months ago, I wrote an article chronicling my other-worldly experience in Lincoln Land’s Traveling Theatre. Jan was responsible for that. Per usual, I found myself sitting in her office. I said, “Hey, I like drama.” She said, “Cool. Here’s what you should do.” And she should know. She’s the one that put the program together. Some years ago, Jan had the idea to use theatre as a medium to bring magic to the area grade school kids. She needed a teacher to head the program, so she hunted down the elusive, then-retired Ken Bradbury and dangled him over a tenth-story hotel balcony by his ankles until he finally acquiesced …at least that’s Bradbury’s version of events. In the theatre program, Jan serves as a cheerleader of sorts; regularly driving vans full of loud and crazy students as well as helping plays get publicity. She does what she always does: she smooths out the doing of things. As a result of her idea, thousands of impressionable children in the area have been left with a new enthusiasm for performing and the arts, as well as a few good memories.
Jan Terry, take a bow. I don’t know what retirement has in store for you, but I hope it is kind. You’re a leader, a mentor, a workhorse, a force to be reckoned with and generally, an all-around kick-ass human being. It’s people like you that make people like me wonder how better off and further along they’d be had you just been there in the first place. I don’t like speaking for other people. Everyone has their own voice and I’m fully aware that not everyone shares my point of view. But I have no problem saying that for everyone, Lincoln Land will be an emptier experience without you kicking around the halls next year. So on behalf of everyone at Lincoln Land Community College, I say, they say, we all sincerely say… thank you.