Tributes

A Tribute to JoAnne Lanouette
by Dan Entwisle

JoAnne arrived briskly every morning at 7:30 and with her briefcase wheeling behind appeared to have just flown in from exotic lands. Indeed, her many travels and her international work experience--including years teaching at the American School in London and a long dedication to the Japanese Language and Culture Program--gave JoAnne a cosmopolitan air, and her morning entrance hinted "that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour." But unlike Daisy Buchanan, JoAnne was a Midwesterner with integrity and substance. After cheerful salutations she would open the briefcase, pull out the stack of essays graded the previous night, tug back her forelock, and get right down to business. Despite her global perspective JoAnne always seemed at heart the Minnesota woman with salt-of-the-earth values. At moments of highest pique, the worst oath ever to escape her lips was, "Oh, pigeon pucky!"

During her distinguished 24 years of service to Sidwell Friends, JoAnne was, first and always, a superb teacher. Her classroom was warm, inviting, energetic, beautifully organized and expertly focused, day after day. She knew just how to move students from one activity to the next, from one month to another. She had an enormous storehouse of methods, sound pedagogical approaches and tricks of the trade, to tap at need. Ever attentive to what she saw in her students, ever eager to exchange ideas with colleagues, and always excited about learning from teachers at other schools, year after year JoAnne evolved as a teacher. (Or may we say, she Intelligent Designed!)

JoAnne taught freshmen, juniors, and seniors with equal finesse. She gave much extra help and cared so much about individuals that most of her free periods were spent in the office conference room with students, one-on-one. She was miraculous at helping struggling freshmen gain a solid foothold in the Upper School. A passionate love of American Studies highlighted JoAnne's work with eleventh graders. Paired with Ellis Turner, she inspired a generation of juniors to appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of art, architecture, literature, history, and culture. Her senior semester electives, Individualism and Cultural Pressures and Writing Stories and Poems, proved to endure in our curriculum and to launch many graduates into follow-up study. The poetry anthologies coming out of her class showed how beautifully she kindled and celebrated the art, the good in her pupils. Recently, one student was so appreciative of JoAnne's gifts that he nominated her for a prestigious scholarship to Oxford University, which she won and then pursued with characteristic enthusiasm.

To list JoAnne's contributions outside the classroom would kill too many trees, so a partial account will have to do. In chairing the English Department for fifteen years, she celebrated the best in us and gently called us to our shortcomings. She served on the Diversity Committee, helped start the Diversity Roundtables, and attended the People of Color Conference. As Clerk of the Faculty she patiently led us through two years of delicate discussions, always with an ear finely tuned to Quaker process. She advised Horizon for many years, led various committees, helped the NAIS planning committee, evaluated Penn Charter's English Department, and served as Faculty Representative to the Board of Trustees. More than all this, JoAnne was a trusted friend and advisor to faculty new and old from all departments. And she would brighten the day with her soaring ejaculations, and with her propensity not merely to state a declarative sentence, but actually to sing it.

Looking at JoAnne's desk area, intact now for only a few days more, you see glimmers of her life and her skills. On the bulletin board appear pictures of family, friends, and travel; a political cartoon, the likes of which she would tape to the office door, to students' delight; reminders of her Japan association; and a photo of Sojourner Truth. In the bookcase she has donated to us many of her teaching texts; in these it is impossible to find a clean page, for she has always been an annotating whiz, her extensive scholarship finding expression in every margin. On the desk itself she keeps papers to grade, plus files and folders, all soundly organized. And under the desk, the chair is looking way too big to fill next year.

JoAnne, you can now join Bill in your "renaissance," as he calls it. Thank you for giving so much time, expertise, and heart to the school. Thanks for giving countless students the skills to succeed and the confidence to use them. Thanks to you and Bill also for the gift of your own children, who were wonderful here and who are both out doing great good for the world: Nicole ('93) as a doctor, and Kathryn ('97) as a teacher. Anne Bradstreet wrote, "Youth is the time of getting, middle age of improving, and old age of spending." Spend it happily, JoAnne! We love you and miss you already.