Whenever I met with a new student, I would always show her around the office. That included introducing her to Janet Brown, the director of the Writing Success Program. Janet stood out in the Community Programs Office filled with college students, recent graduates and a few adult advisors past the age of 30. Even though she was older than most staff members, students could relate to her advice when it came to writing. As I introduced my student to Janet, I’d tell them they should stop by to see Janet to discuss papers for their classes.
While I no longer had classes, I did follow my own advice as I struggled with my personal statement for graduate school. I shared a draft with Janet. Her praise — “I’d admit you!” — and comments left an impression and relieved some of my stress. I wrote about it on my old blog:
December 2, 2003
In other news, I’m not feeling so stressed about graduate applications. I showed my personal statement to Janet, the woman who runs the writing program here. She only had me change one thing and loved it. “What was your major?”
“Sociology and Chicana/o Studies.”
“And you write so well in spite of it!”
She went on to explain that all the sociology majors she’d run across were horrible writers. I must be an exception. I let her know that any of the things I learned to strengthen my writing simply came through practice, reading a lot of fiction and non-fiction, and creative writing courses.
Compliments are nice.
Janet passed away Saturday April 25th. I learned of her passing via Twitter from Ralph who wrote: “I will miss you tremendously Janet Brown. I am truly a better person for having known you. Rest in peace.”
I learned more about her passing and recent illness from Tony Sandoval, the director of the Community Programs Office. He closed his email (below) asking “us [to] remember the jokes, laughs, advice, reptilian stories and most of all her boundless kindness and thoughtfulness.”
Even though I worked with Janet for two years and had more administrative experiences sharing the woes of being an overworked project director, the exchange above was the first thing I remembered.
I’m glad I got to work with her and thankful she gave me that much-needed boost of confidence. It may have been more than five years ago, but it’s never worn out.
Rest in peace, Janet.