Alumni of the Month: June 2010

JENNY WATERMAN
1963 English & Philosophy

1. How did you get to where you are now?
Well, where I am now is retired after many years of teaching, twenty-nine of them in a Community College in Ottawa as professor in the English Department, of which I was, thank heavens briefly, a Department Head. During those twenty-nine years I had three sabbaticals. One of them I spent in the UK at the Swindon Probation Office being co-establisher of an educational day centre for ex-prisoners, probationers, and prisoners’ wives, On my return to Ottawa I helped set up a community-based volunteer literacy programme, which is still running.
Jenny Waterman When I read of the spectacular careers of some Keele graduates, I think mine was somewhat small potatoes. Having got an upper second at Keele , I went on to get two post-graduate degrees; the first, in literature and the second in therapeutic counselling. Both were of value as an educator- and I also had a part-time private practice as a counsellor. Although I sat on various College committees what I really enjoyed was teaching and the students. I think Keele, with the teaching and learning intimacy it offered in its early years provided a good model, and, in the Ontario Community College system for many years the class sizes were small enough to know individual students so there was a connect. One of the abiding influences of Keele in my life has been its encouragement of openness to others and to varied views of the world - and that goes right back to Foundation Year and to the small size of the campus. Both in my professional life and in my personal life I have been very fortunate to be quite closely involved with different communities and people of varied interests. Not only has there been the work with the prison/probation world and the world of people wanting to learn to read and write, but also with First Nations, with refugees ( over a period of thirty years) and with Ottawa Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist communities. Enduring friendships have come out of all this.
Retirement has given me more time to paint and become a print-maker. As my Special Subject in Philosophy I took Aesthetics, which offered a wonderful theoretical and analytic underpinning to my already existing delight in Art . I have a somewhat muddled memory of a tutorial with Prof Andrew Harrison spent contemplating whether scarlet and magenta cushions were a moral/ethical issue ! No matter- it certainly provided me with a life-long interest in the arts and critical theory. Similarly, a fabulous Kathe Kollwitz exhibit that Prof Henning organised from his own collection around 1960 to show at Keele, lingers with me and I’m sure tinges the occasional political prints I make.

2. What has been your biggest achievement so far?
What a question? Do I think in this way? Keele set up a solid foundation for a very good life, despite my many meanderings. I feel I have had - and continue to have - a life of rich experiences and wonderful friendships. That counts for a lot. A couple of things I’ll mention that give me pleasure to think about. One is helping set up a First Nations Studies Programme in conjunction with regional First Nations educators and during my time with that programme supporting an older Cree woman get her first short story published in Canada’s best First Nations literary magazine. Secondly, these last two years, I have been part of a Muslim-Christian Book Club that meets six times a year - just six Muslims and six Christians. We read novels and poetry from one another’s varied cultures and it’s been amazing. I’ve also had a go at learning Farsi - limited success so far but working on it.

3. And your biggest mistake?
Not allowing myself to know I was intelligent and creative soon enough.

4. What are your ambitions now?
To continue to enjoy life and learn the new things I want to learn, delight in good friends and family, cherish creativity - my own and other peoples, be active for change in the small areas of life where I can be, and accept that I’ll never know how the play ends.

5. What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
No matter what field - get a good education, live abundantly, be open to the extra-ordinary richness of this world, trust your own capacities, and respect and accept those of others.

6. What made you choose Keele University?
A bit hard to remember, but I do know I was excited by my interview visit. Too, my grammar school had a kind of “overview of world knowledge” in the sixth form and the Headmistress, Helen Lister, had high regard for Keele. I didn’t know anybody when I came but I made friends there that I still have to this day - two very close friends in particular.

7. How has Keele influenced your life?
It is actually amazing how deeply the impact of Keele goes, even when one is not altogether aware of it. When I think of Keele, the memories are very sharp and clear - whether they be of good times or of rough.

8. What is your favourite memory of Keele?
Too many, really. One for now: me, in a long Grecian off- the-shoulder peacock blue ball gown, and my sweet-heart, drunk on wine and romance, sitting on a grassy hillock somewhere off beyond the lawns of Keele Hall on a hot summer night after a Royal Ball.

9. And your worst?
The depressions I went through at the end of Foundation Year; so many adjustments to work through that first year.

10. Anything else you would like to add?
I am very glad I went to Keele.