"Go ask Jeanne," was a common phrase in the science department

(06-10-2008)

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When I first sat down to interview Jeanne Reed, administrative assistant for the School of Science, Mathematics, and Technology, she talked about all the deans and department heads she had worked with/for, describing what they were like, their personalities. When the conversation turned towards her, she backed off, didn't want me to "write an obituary, like a funeral where they say all these great things and you wonder if they are talking about the same person you knew."

If you know Reed, you know her energy, her quick mind and her dynamic spirit that stays positive even in the face of adversity. Reed dedicated her 40-year professional career to Adams State College, its faculty, staff, and most of all, students. She retired this spring.

For nearly half of the college's existence, Reed has worked on campus. Her coworkers and the students became her closest friends and like family, they provided hugs and support when her husband, Gordon, of 42 years, lost his battle with cancer. Through it all Reed kept up on her professional duties and although their marriage did seem to be "a match made in heaven," she was not defeated.

Staying active

Reed continues to run four to five miles every day, during her noon hour, she used to run seven. "It is my time. It keeps me sane." She loves to hike, camp, and go on adventures with her friend of 25 years, Arlene Ruark, who retired from the Adams State Bookstore, after 27 years, in 2002. This summer they will be traveling to Costa Rica with Dr. Tim Armstrong, professor of biology, and to Spain next May with Dr. Joyce Centofanti, associate professor of art.

"We are good friends because we communicate and enjoy each other's company," Ruark said. "We have a ball doing exciting stuff including races, mountain climbing, hiking, and traveling to foreign countries."

They hiked the entire Colorado Trail, from Denver to Durango, and several segments numerous times, and climbed over 35 of Colorado's 14ers and Mt. Whitney in California. "You can always trust Jeanne, if you say something in confidence to her, it will stay confident," Ruark said. "We have been there for each other. She has kept me young."

Dedicated to her profession

Reed said she has worked with 164 faculty, 8 deans, and 24 department chairs. "Craft hired me," Reed said. "Nobody had held the position for three months. They just showed me the desk and said, 'go to work.'"

Fortunately for the college, Reed knew what work meant.

"In my 19 years at Adams State College, I've worked with four department heads, five deans (permanent/interim), and six presidents (permanent/interim), but only one science/mathematics/technology administrative assistant - Ms. Jeanne Reed," said Dr. Marty Jones, professor of chemistry. "Jeanne was efficient and very helpful. In fact, more often than not, when I had a question about ASC policies/procedures, my first stop was at Jeanne's desk. If she didn't know the answer, she knew who to ask to get the answer."

"Mr. (Monty) Zerger, emeritus professor of mathematics, wrote me a poem, 'Go Ask Jeanne,' it really meant a lot," said Reed.

Making lifelong friends

After Craft, Reed worked for Dr. Moe Morris, emeritus professor of physics, and then Dr. Kay Watkins, emeritus professor of chemistry. "We were so close as a school," Reed said. "In the old building, outside my office was a gathering place for students and faculty. Some of my best friends are former students."

Gary Wilkinson, class of '76 and '84 teaches chemistry, physics, web page design and other science and technology classes at Monte Vista High School. "I knew Jeanne since my freshman year in 1972," he said. "Jeanne was always there as a sounding board, never too busy to visit. I always felt better after a talk with Jeannie."

He said Reed is incredibly efficient, tremendously friendly, and helpful to everyone and remains up-to-date with the latest technology, "nothing throws Jeanne."

When she started, Reed used a typewriter, carbon paper, ditto machines, and slide rulers. "We thought it was great when we got a correctable typewriter, then we got typewriters with memory and that was really something," she said.

Reed said Watkins was a wonderful dean. "I learned so much from Dr. Watkins," she said. "He had a way of motivating everyone to do their very best."

Watkins, a 1955 Adams State graduate, was dean for 14 years. He said he couldn't have done what he did without her. "I can't imagine there being a better secretary for the School of Science than Jeanne Reed. She was involved in the majority of operations of the school: preparing reports, proposals, and correspondence. The number of years she serves so well in her position is remarkable."

Always adventurous

Reed took advantage of opportunities to take field trips and went on a number of biology and geology trips. "What wonderful instructors there are in the science and mathematics," she said. "I loved the association with faculty and students. Education is a worthwhile and stimulating environment."

Armstrong said Jeanne was one of the key people who kept Porter Hall running smoothly. "She was here long enough to know the nuances of all of the operations within the building. She cared deeply for students and was always willing to help faculty and staff."

Through her tenure at Adams State, Reed met and kept many friends, including Suzy Hulsey, 1978 chemistry graduate, who said Reed is "a lot of fun" and "a great friend." She added Jeanne loves to help and is full of adventure. "The college was lucky to have her all those years."

Caring Mentor

In the course of her forty years, Reed supervised many work-study students, including Breanna Dunn-Crowther, a junior, "Jeanne is always friendly and easy to talk to," she said. "She is very supportive. She really enjoys every day and remains positive. Even when her husband was very sick, she stayed positive."

The administrative assistants in the academic departments formed a supportive group. "The other admins were absolutely fantastic for me," Reed said. "They were so supportive, more than any group on campus, when Gordon was sick and I was gone. I have two families, work and home. I was here more than any other place in my lifetime."

Cheryl Pearce-Trujillo, class of '84, said Reed was an incredible mentor. "Twenty-nine years ago, I was fortunate enough to be selected by Jeanne Reed to be her work study student. I was so impressed by how masterfully Jeanne served an entire science, technology and industrial studies division. My work ethic was honed not necessarily in a classroom, but in that office where I learned the office and interpersonal skills that Jeanne taught me. Jeanne was a fine mentor and an even better friend."

Attitude over altitude

According to Reed there are three major stresses in an individual's life including the death of a spouse, retiring, and moving. All have happened to Reed in the last year. "Without support of my friends, I can't get through it."

Her indomitable spirit keeps her going. This spring Reed planted 170 bushes around her new home, by herself. "So far they are all doing great." She is also looking forward to starting a garden. "I have never had the time or space or water to garden. I am doing what my neighbors do, if they plant, I plant, if they water, I water. I have never gardened before. I will learn from them."

And that is the Jeanne everyone knows, she keeps going, keeps learning and is always ready for a new adventure.

"I have learned sometimes you have no choice, and have to make the best of it," Reed said. "Gordon would be in a heap-of-hurt and when I would ask how he was doing, he would say 'any better and I'd be twins.' We have an expression when hiking, 'it's not the altitude it is the attitude.'"

By Linda Relyea