Does Jan Devore know everyone? Of course not. But in her 35 years with Millikin, the longtime director of alumni relations and former dean of students definitely earned her legendary reputation for remembering individual students by name, even long after they were alumni. Often, it didn’t matter if she hadn’t seen the alum for some time or if his or her appearance was no longer that of a fresh-faced college student. Jan has been known to recognize a former student by voice alone.
Last June, Jan retired from Millikin as senior director of alumni and donor engagement. An employee farewell reception was followed by a second retirement reception for alumni and friends at last fall’s Homecoming. At both, Jan was praised for a job well done, and the praises keep coming.
“Thanks are due to Jan for being a constant source of encouragement and ‘hands on’ support to Millikin students for nearly 35 years,” said Millikin President Emeritus Doug Zemke ’66. “As students transitioned to alumni, Jan became a caring friend and an inspiration for them to ‘do good and to do well’ in their adult lives. She is the personification of the institution that she loves so dearly. Once you become Jan’s friend, you have become her friend for life.”
That is no exaggeration. After beginning her Millikin career as a resident director for the student development staff, Jan Devore enthusiastically immersed herself in the Millikin community. It was rare not to see her face at a Millikin event. Through the years, her name became synonymous with events like Freshman Camp, Commencement and Homecoming. If not leading the event herself, she was troubleshooting it and working the room like a seasoned politician, making sure everyone felt welcome. Students and alums alike greeted her warmly as “Jan Devore!”nd shared their latest news — a new job, a new move, a new spouse. Many alumni treat her like family, inviting her to their weddings and letting her stay in their homes when she’s on the road.
“As a student or an alum, your life was impacted by Jan,”ays Michelle Stremmel ’95. “You were either inspired, encouraged, and mentored by her, as I was, or you greatly benefited by the programs, organizations, and events which she created. She gave freely of her time and energy to ensure that Millikin students received as much education outside the classroom as we did inside, and in recent years, she worked to ensure we remained connected to campus and its rich history.”
In recognition of her positive influence on generations of Millikin students and alumni and her enthusiasm for their achievements both during and after their time at MU, efforts have been underway since her retirement to name something permanent on campus in her honor. “We seek to honor her amazing legacy at the institution by naming the student lobby in the proposed new University Center in her name,” said Trustee Emeritus Peggy Madden, who traveled overseas with Jan on many alumni and friends trips. “I ask you to consider joining me in this effort to thank our dear friend and give her name permanence on the campus she loves so much; for her heart, for her humor, for her help,” Madden says.
To name this high-traffic lobby in the proposed new center, more than half of the construction cost of the space must be raised from alumni and friends of the university, per Millikin board policy. The original goal was to raise the $400,000 needed to name the space the Dr. Jan Devore Student Lobby. However, supporters now feel an even more fitting tribute would be to raise the entire $775,300 to construct the space. Many alumni have already given, and at press time the total stood at $375,494.
“We believe it is a fitting legacy that Jan’s name will become a permanent part of the institution she has served so well,” said Jan’s first MU boss, former VP of Student Development Joe Houston.
Learn more about the effort to name the lobby. And in the meantime, watch for Jan at Millikin events. She may have stepped down as an employee, but her heart still belongs to the Millikin family.
Deb Hale Kirchner is senior director of communications for the alumni and development office.