by Sarah Doenmez
While Jan may be known as The Drama Queen, or for her indomitable will (read: temper), in my mind, it is her staunch and unwavering heart that has marked Jan’s biggest role at Dublin School.
There are things only I now know about Jan’s role at Dublin School. It was Jan who held this school together in the rocky years in the 80s and 90s when we had so many transitions in the headship. We lost two headmasters to sudden deaths, had interim heads, and a head or two who did not work out: Bill Evans, Arthur White, Sam Eliot, Chris Horgan, Richard Fox. Through all this transition, it was Jan whose spirit held the school together and who kept our mission bright before our eyes.
Jan started all the major traditions that mark the rhythm of our school year: Convocation, The Arts Performance at Parents’ Weekend, the Celebration of Lights, Martin Luther King Day, Mayfair. For many years, Jan would give morning meetings to teach us about the history of the school and acquaint each new generation of Dubliners with Mr. and Mrs. Lehmann, Mr. North, Mr. Gillespie and Mr. White - the legendary leaders of Dublin’s early days. She would regale us with the story of how she was hired by Mike Lehmann, after crashing her car into a tree, and other escapades.
Jan’s passionate advocacy of students of color and diversity at Dublin was groundbreaking and seminal to our core values. Not only did she advocate, she adopted students, cared for them, transported them, took them in, helped their families. She did this not only for students of color, but for so many others who needed attention, support, care, and a sandwich.
For many students, it was working in the theater or in dance with Jan that led to transformative experiences or even laid foundations for future careers. But Jan’s theater was a wider community: she always had roles for faculty, for faculty children, and even their pets. When our Turkish relatives spent a year here as refugees after an earthquake devastated Istanbul in 1999, Jan had roles in the Nutcracker for each of the six children, as well as our three, and an untold number of other faculty children. Jan always knew who on campus would love to be asked to sew costumes or design programs.
For so many other students, and faculty, it was the classroom experience with Jan that changed their lives. Jan showed the rest of the faculty what it meant to meet students where they were, what it meant to use the arts in the classroom, what it meant to differentiate, and to challenge and support all our students. She taught Arts courses, English courses, History courses: History By Hollywood, Native Americans in Film, Civil Rights, The 60s, the 50s, Musical Theater, Shakespeare, SLAM Poetry.
“What do you need?” she would ask me, “I’ll do whatever you need.” Her teaching gave her students their voice. She was integral to shaping the arts-threaded curriculum, our first major integrated curricular effort. Teaching her students and making them shine has been Jan’s passion, her element, her mission.
More than anyone else in the almost 30 years I have lived and worked at Dublin School, Jan has been my Teacher. Without her example and fierce conviction of the power of education and Dublin School, in particular, to empower students and improve the world, I would not still be here. Jan’s sharp intellect, her toughness, her delight and dreams, her loyalties and her love of Dublin have given us the heart and culture that define Dublin School.