We met working with college students, specifically rape survivors. Janet was the Assistant Dean at Harvard and I was a social worker at the Health Services. We often saw the same students, and did what we could to help. Janet was passionate about her work, her students, and improving the system.
We became good friends. There were dinners over the years with Veronica and Lucy. We complained about our respective "systems" - managed care, Harvard, the law -- but loved being together, breaking bread, drinking wine. I thought Janet's law school decision was wonderful and courageous.
Special memories: sitting up together all night on a bus to Washington, DC to join the March for Reproductive Rights; dancing at one of Janet's birthday parties after she became Senior Tutor of Adams House. Two years ago she came to my class of third year medical students, talked about living with metastatic cancer, and taught them to listen.
We talked a long time on the phone about ten days before she died. She was always so direct: "I'm dying." I told her how much I would miss her. We said good-bye. It was one of the hardest phone calls I have ever made. I have a photo of her hiking in Colorado, the Rockies behind her. She is smiling.
~ Nadja B. Gould
I met Janet when she was an attorney working for Hill and Barlow on a 30-year-old consent decree for people with mental retardation. I was struck by her extraordinary ability to work with everyone in the room, an to bring them all together toward a common goal, including many who had previously had difficulty working with one another. Her objectivity, her evenhandedness, her sense of humor and ability to see the best in everyone, set the tone of respect and cooperative that made a potentially tense and difficult situation workable and even pleasant. Janet was an inspiration in a million ways - personally, professionally, and intellectually. She could recognize what was truly important, and also recognize that, to quote her, "the rest is just noise." I'll really miss Janet. She was a kind and courageous person.
~ Colleen Lutkevich
I was very sorry to hear of Janet's death. My most vivid memories of Janet are of our many conversations when she was senior tutor and I was a regular tutor at Adams House. We disagreed a lot. Janet was always forceful and eloquent in putting her case. What impressed me the most, however, was that she never even once let our disagreements interfere with our friendship or mutual respect. She clearly believed passionately in what she was doing, and why. She was a remarkable woman, and we will all miss her.
~ Ben Polak
Carol Rose ~
The following is a poem that Janet and I both loved; it reminds me of why Janet chose to live in the mountains of Colorado. I don't have an answer to the question posed at the end of the poem, but Janet's life challenges me to live the question.
"The Summer Day"
Who made the world?
~ by Mary Oliver
From Otto Coontz ~
I am a friend and former colleague of Janet's from her stint as a Harvard College Assistant Dean. When working together in Adams House, one of our students was having a particularly rough time with some very significant personal issues. He was from Pakistan, which is where he now lives and works as a video-journalist for the BBC covering the war zones to the north and west.
I'm not sure how it is he came to hear of Janet's death, but I receive this from him the day after I heard the news myself.
I know Janet had a life altering impact on this young man who will readily tell you that without her, he would have had serious doubts of surviving his personal crisis. I'll let his simple, eloquent message speak for itself.
"i don't know what she meant to other people, bit i will always cherish the difference she made in my life, personal courage is such an infectious thing. but too, she had the warmth and patience to bring it out in others. otto, could you place a rose from me wherever she rests? with love and grief." Ali
Janet's seven years at Radcliffe Career Services were in a word- stunning. She was full of verve, energy, creativity, a pleasure to work with, a friend and a colleague whom we all treasured, a truly wonderful, exceptional human being. She came as a graduate student assistant in the early 1980s and over the years that followed she had many different jobs, from Assistant to the Director to one half of a job sharing team as Assistant Director before moving on to her other roles at Harvard.
A small sample of her extensive work at Radcliffe: Early in the 1980s, Janet put together a hugely successful conference on "Workplace Issues for Lesbian's which was part of an ongoing series on workplace discrimination. (From our perspective today, this might not seem like a startling program; at that date, when colleges were not publicly discussing these issues, it was an incredibly strong statement for Radcliffe to be sponsoring this event.)
She was involved in all aspects of running the office which offered services to thousands of community women and Radcliffe alumnae on work issues: she did everything from program planning, management of the program series, staff and student supervision, systems, and career counseling. Ever creative and looking for the next challenge, Janet would dream one up when she needed to. One summer, she decided to take over the production of the RCS Annual Report - she learned PageMaker, then a new computer program, and taking the written copy produced an inspiring and elegant document. She also made it clear that RCS in her vision was not all work - a special gift to the staff one summer was a teapot, intended for the regular afternoon break we all needed.
Janet's years as assistant director began when the then assistant direct, Sue Shefte, had a baby; job sharing seemed a natural next step for both of them. Janet and Sue made a great team. Sue suggested early on to Janet that the staff would take her more seriously if she dressed the part. Fair or not, people's natural instinct would be to come to Sue, not to the "promoted grad student" unless they saw her as Sue's administrative equal, not her helper, and Radcliffe in those days was very much a skirt and pantyhose kind of place. True to form, Janet did what needed to be done - but added her own twist. Her approach to "Radcliffe attire" was to do it with infinitely more style than anyone else - she could look serious whimsical and artsy all at once, and not many could pull that off.
Sue and Janet shared many beliefs about management and leadership. They both felt the best leaders were multifaceted and able to bring forth different sides of themselves to bear on different situations, with different people. They called it the "chameleon effect." They shared core values of fairness and respect toward staff, and they tried to know people personally and inspire and reward them. But they also realized that they both had many sides to their personalities - they could adopt varying styles and come across differently to different people as needed - and it was a strategic advantage.
Even in those early years of her professional growth, it was clear how many facets there were to Janet and how true each facet was. It made her a fascinating (and effective) person, respected and beloved by such a wide range of people. It is a wonder that so much integrity, truth, fairness, solemnity, depth, wit, whimsy, flair, and exuberance could all be combined in one person. Her influence will continue in many lives.
~ Sue Shefte and Phyllis Stein
Janet took Donne's words "No man is an island" to heart; she made sure that no one she met, for whatever reason, was ever alone. She was the best friend to anyone lucky enough to know her.
~ Natalie Frohock Tarbet
From Janie Rangel ~
I graduated from Adams House at Harvard College in 1990, so I knew Janet as a friend and Senior Tutor, In early 1991, she invited my mother to stay with her while I was in the hospital -- she knew that my mother couldn't possibly afford a hotel near the hospital, and she didn't want Mama to have to learn to deal with the T while trying to take care of me. My mother grew up as a migrant farm worker, raising 5 children while working full-time, then on disability. She is now a small-business owner in her own right. At that the time, having a dean at Harvard open her home to her was a pretty amazing thing, yet Janet made it seem perfectly natural.
Mama was hurt to hear the news of Janet's death, and asked me to pass this on to you.
"I first met Janet under strained circumstances and was saddened to learn of her death. It has, however, prompted me to remember her kindness. My daughter was having some medical problems and I wanted to be near her. Janet, knowing the situation, and being a true friend, graciously offered to let me stay with her while my daughter was in the hospital. Janet did not know me from the Man in the Moon but she, nonetheless, opened her home to a stranger because I was her friend's mother.
Janet made me feel both welcomed and comfortable, making sure that I had everything possible at my disposal -- including moral support. After my return home, I would ask how Janet was doing. Over the years, I asked less frequently about Janet, but never forgot her. When I heard of Janet's death, I immediately remembered her kindness and sincerity."
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