Few people have been at Macalester longer than Alumni Relations Assistant Jan Dickinson. After entering Macalester as a student in the fall of 1960 and graduating in 1964, Dickinson began working at Macalester right after graduating, and has been working here ever since. After a career at Macalester that spanned 54 years, Dickinson will retire from Macalester at the end of December.
Dickinson was offered a job in the International House, the predecessor to the International Center, during her senior year. Before taking that job, Dickinson spent a summer on an Ambassadors for Friendship trip, where she went around the country with domestic and international students in an effort to raise cultural awareness. The trips were organized by the International House at the time, and came as Macalester began emphasizing internationalism as part of its mission.
“About that time, we had only about 30 to 40 international students, and study away opportunities were fairly limited,” Dickinson said. “But people were still interested in [internationalism]. They had a lot of interest in it.”
After that trip, Dickinson began working as the Secretary to the Director of the International House, later the International Center. Then, in 2002, she began working in the Alumni Relations Office, where she has worked ever since.
The move across campus brought Dickinson a new area to work in, but her new role did not allow her to work with students as much as she did in the International Center.
“There was not as much student contact as I was used to,” Dickinson said. “That was the one thing I missed — being able to greet the students. I dealt very closely with international students and liked watching them go in and out.”
After spending so many years at Macalester, Dickinson has watched the school change and evolve throughout her time here. Some of the most visible changes have come from the campus itself — she witnessed the construction of Kagin, Markim Hall, Doty and Dupre Halls, the Campus Center, the Library, and the Leonard Center, as well as the demolition of Dayton Hall, the former student union and the field house. While Dickinson worked here, Weyerhaeuser Hall was converted from the library to the administrative building, and many offices moved out of Old Main into different locations on campus.
However, Dickinson has also witnessed the culture and the student body of Macalester change throughout the years. When Dickinson was a student in the 1960s, weekly chapel and convocation services were required, men’s and women’s housing were located on separate parts of campus, and the Republican students were much more active than they were today, she said.
“I think people nowadays are a lot more vocal, and more involved in what’s happening on campus. It seems like the student body is a lot more into what’s happening on campus, and takes a vested interest in it,” Dickinson said. “They really want to make sure it continues and gets better.”
After over 50 years at Macalester, and working under seven different presidents, Dickinson is excited for retirement, but will miss being at Macalester every day.
“I’ll miss the people I work with. That’s going to be hard,” Dickinson said. “But I’m not far away, and I figured I can always come over and have lunch … I never expected I’d stay here this long. I figured I’d be here a couple years, and go off and do something else, but it just never happened. I enjoyed who I was working with, and the students make a difference. I think they keep you young. You tune into their thinking and their feeling, and get an idea of what’s happening.”
Dickinson hopes to keep busy by volunteering at the Macalester archives, helping identify students in old photographs from her time at Macalester.
“I’m looking forward to [retirement],” Dickinson said. “I’m also thinking, what am I going to do? I’ve got some other projects that I’m going to be working on.”
A farewell party will be held for Dickinson on Monday from 4 to 7 p.m. in Kagin Commons.