At the end of 2015, Mrs. Jane Cannon will retire from her role as Alumni Director. To our delight, she will continue to work among us as a volunteer, finishing the bicentennial book she’s writing about the history of the Academy, and helping with other special projects. As she looks toward her exit as a paid employee, Jane was kind enough to respond to a few of our questions.
Could you share a memory or two from early years?
When we started here in 1968, our daughters were in third and second grades and kindergarten. The kindergarten class was in “the laundry,” which is now the Philippine house near the Decatur gate. Second grade was a large class because that class had had a morning and an afternoon section when they were in kindergarten; so they were always in two sections. Their classrooms were on the second floor in the primary wing. Third grade was on the first floor in the Regis building.
I remember being so touched when I brought the girls to school for the first time. Every desk had a little cloth drawstring bag on it that contained a new box of crayons. I learned that Sister Steppe and Sister Hoza had spent the summer making those bags. Knowing how tight the economy was back then, I’m pretty sure that buying all those crayons was a serious decision for them to make.
Country Fair, the first year that we experienced it, was on a Saturday afternoon. That’s all! Just a few hours in the gym with a few simple booths. The gym, back then, was what is now the White Center and the Playroom. The Country Fair dinner was served on the patio.
The whole Silver Tea (grade school and high school combined) was on the stage in the gym (which would now be the upper level of the cafeteria). Of course, the high school girls sang separately from the younger girls (no boys back then); and there was enough room in the gym for the tea and cookies to be served in the back of the room behind all the parents’ chairs.
What was the school like in 1968?
The old chapel (now Cribbin Hall) was still furnished as a chapel that year. I remember attending the funeral of a nun (Mother Wilkins, who had taught me Latin in college) there. It was stripped shortly after that and the big, empty room became an assembly room at some times and a kindergarten nap room at other times.
Over the years the spaces have changed their functions so many times. I have learned, in the writing of the school’s history (for the Bicentennial) that it is very helpful for subsequent generations if photos are taken before a change so that an archivist can document how these places have been used from time to time. (Of course, that was not possible in the case of the Duquette Mansion [log cabin] or even the 1835 building when it was first built since photography was not even invented then.)
What’s been a particularly enjoyable aspect of your job?
I think I would have to name the PEOPLE as the most enjoyable facet of this job. Of course, there is the obvious treasure of working in the house blessed by a saint, and maybe she is the reason that so many wonderful friends (and even a few challenging personalities) have made these 41 years a beautiful memory. I think they are what has kept me coming back—and what has prompted me to extract from Sister Glavin permission to hang on, after January 1, as an interloping volunteer.
I have worked closely under three heads of school. I was like a daughter, learning under Sister Steppe, like a sister to Margaret Caire; and I feel like a mother to Maureen Glavin. Each of them was/is a unique person, but each poured her heart and soul into this school and lent her own peculiar strengths to ensure its continuation, grounded on the vision of Philippine Duchesne. It was a privilege to be a small part of the very large work that each of them furthered with a clarity of purpose that was almost contagious.
Have families / students changed over the last four decades?
I think children will always be children, and so the ones who come to us at an early age are still largely unspoiled by the world around them. It is possible for us to rely on their innocence and simplicity in order to shape them much as our predecessors attempted to form their new students. However, this is certainly a different world from the one that existed in 1968. Parents’ lives are much more complicated, I believe, than ours were back then. Expectations of involvement in a wide range of athletic and social activities seem to have pushed family (and even spiritual) priorities into a forgotten corner. I understand how this has happened—gradually and unnoticed—and I believe that the school has inherited the responsibility of preserving some values that might otherwise be cast aside in the interest of “progress.”
Favorite Sacred Heart tradition?
I think we are clearly in the middle of my favorite annual tradition now: Christmas at the Academy. There is not one single thing about this season that I would isolate. It’s the whole sequence of Advent practices, Lily Procession, Silver Teas, Christmas Baskets and Christmas Eve Mass in the Shrine that set you up for a holiday steeped in joyful celebration of the birth of Christ. The wide-eyed wonder of the youngest children to the warm, look-you-in-the-eye greetings of the oldest students—just back from toting Christmas baskets or practicing for a part in Silver Tea—remind you you’re in a very special ivory tower. Lucky me! No wonder I have stayed here so long!