After more than two decades of service to the Macalester community, beloved department coordinators Jane Kollasch of economics and Toni Schrantz of religious studies and philosophy are retiring at the end of the semester.
Kollasch, after 24 years at Macalester and 22 years as economics department coordinator, has worked as an event planner, administrator, basketball scorekeeper and volunteer and been a consistent resource to students and faculty alike.
“Probably my biggest role is just being the mom of the department and being there for everyone,” Kollasch said. “If they’re sad one day, happy one day, good news, bad news, they seem to come to me a lot of times for advice or reassurance.”
Economics major and office assistant Suveer Daswani ’18 agreed.
“I feel like she has that motherly instinct, which especially for me, as an international student, has been very, very comforting,” Daswani said. “She’s added so much to my life, and I know she’s had an impact on students through the years she’s been here.”
That impact is perhaps best measured by Kollasch’s relationships with department alumni. She has seen 19 classes graduate, and has made an effort to stay in contact with each of them.
“We keep up on Facebook, they stop by to visit, I’ve gone to weddings, graduations – it’s a good feeling,” she said. In fact, this summer, Kollasch has plans to travel to Bulgaria with her husband for an alumni wedding – at which she hopes to see “about 50 other alums.”
Kollasch plans to stay involved with campus in her retirement through volunteer work. Even so, she knows she will find it hard to say goodbye. “The students are what makes it difficult,” she said. “These students keep you young.”
Daswani is comforted by the fact that he is graduating at the end of the semester.
“I feel good, because I’m leaving as well, so that’s definitely me being selfish,” he said. “But I think it’s worked out just perfect. I know that she will definitely be missed in the economics department.”
“In economics we talk about externalities, and there are positive externalities and negative externalities,” he continued. “I feel like Jane’s presence and the way she does her work, her passion, her love, her affection, her warmth, is definitely a positive externality to the office and for everyone who drops by.”
Though they will be a presence much missed on campus, it is fitting that Kollasch and Schrantz end their Macalester careers the same way they began them – together. Their friendship dates back to before either of them worked at the college.
“Jane’s older daughter and my older daughter were in school together. So we met when they were in second grade,” Schrantz said. “We used to do Girl Scouts and stuff like that.”
Kollasch began work at Macalester in 1994 in the ITS department. When the Economics Department Coordinator position became available two years later, she was quick to recommend her friend to take her place.
“She suggested that I apply for a job with ITS,” Schrantz said. “She called it ‘the voice of Macalester.”
A few years later, Schrantz, too, had the opportunity to leave ITS for academic administration. She has now worked for the philosophy and religious studies department for 16 years.
In less than two months, she’ll be retiring with her friend of 30 years.
“We’re walking out on the same day, June 1, holding hands, and in tears,” Kollasch said. “It’s bittersweet, it really is.”
Schrantz is excited to spend more time with her grandchildren after retirement. “I have five of the most beautiful grandchildren you’ll ever meet, all five and under. And I want them to know me,” she said.
As for her other plans, Schrantz is going “to kayak, travel, and beat [her] husband in cribbage.”
Schrantz is known throughout her departments for her passion for the work she does.
“My job is basically to make life perfect for the professors,” she said. “This is the best gig ever. The best. The philosophy and religious studies professors are all fabulous, and the majors and minors – I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Schrantz, too, will be sad to leave campus. “The students and the faculty on this floor are actually my family,” she said.
“I’ve been through a lot with the students, and not always with their successes,” she continued. “Their sadder times, too – and I think I’ve made a difference. Each year, I make a joke, and I say, ‘I don’t think I’m going to like this graduating class.’ And it’s funny because I love them all!” Her strong relationships with the religious studies and philosophy faculty and students made her retirement party especially emotional.
On Tuesday, April 17, a large crowd gathered in the DeWitt Wallace Library’s Harmon Room to wish her goodbye to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine.”
Professors, administrators, staff and students, led by chair of philosophy Geoffrey Gorham, sang:
“You are our sunshine, such happy sunshine. You fill our hearts with your joyful grace, You fill the room with your jolly laughter. We will miss your bright eyes and fun ways.”
There were few dry eyes in the room.
“Virtually every day of my working life over the past ten years has been better with Toni,” religious studies professor Jim Laine said, speaking to the crowd.
Philosophy professor Janet Folina agreed.
“I’m just so happy we became friends, and I’m going to miss you terribly,” she said. “Thanks for everything.”
But while they’ll miss Macalester immensely, Kollasch and Schrantz are ready to move onto their next chapter.
“It’s time,” Kollasch said. “Macalester’s a great place to be, and I’ve had a great experience here, but it’s time.”
“I’m not tired, this work actually energizes me,” she said. “But I want to see my grandkids.”
Reflecting on her time at Macalester, Schrantz had one takeaway.
“We’re here because of the students,” she said. “That’s the joy of the whole thing. And students here are wonderful.”