Dr. Jan Meyer, accompanied by her spouse, Roger Jorgenson, was part of the University of Minnesota homecoming parade as she was recognized as a recipient of the Alumni Service Award from the College of Liberal Arts.
Dr. Jan Meyer, accompanied by her spouse, Roger Jorgenson, was part of the University of Minnesota homecoming parade as she was recognized as a recipient of the Alumni Service Award from the College of Liberal Arts.
Dr. Jan Meyer of Lanesboro is a three-time graduate of the University of Minnesota's College of Liberal Arts. Because she is so grateful for her education and the experiences she has had there, Meyer continues to give back to the educational institution as well as pay it forward through support of current students.

For the work she has done at the university, Meyer was awarded the Alumni Service Award from the College of Liberal Arts in October during the University of Minnesota's (U of M) homecoming week. Presented by the U of M Alumni Association, Meyer accepted her award on Thursday, Oct. 11, at the McNamara Alumni Center in Minneapolis.

Meyer admitted she was surprised when she found out she had been nominated for the award, but explained her spouse, Roger Jorgenson, had been in on the process.

A U of M staff member initially suggested her for the award and called Jorgenson to get names of people she had worked with and formed relationships with through the university. Three individuals submitted nominations, her professor and advisor for her Ph.D dissertation, an alumni association director and a fellow alumni association national board member.

Meyer was notified about her nomination in July when it was confirmed that she would be receiving the award.

Each of the colleges within the university system presents an Alumni award each year, Meyer explained. She shared she was extremely honored to have been chosen to represent the College of Liberal Arts, where she has served in many capacities - as a volunteer, a mentor, a speaker and one of the founders of the Southeastern Minnesota Chapter of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association and co-founder of the Eastern Nebraska Chapter.

"I help wherever I can," Meyer said. "I've taught, I've served on the alumni board, I've been a commencement speaker."

She has also worked with students through an outreach program to help them select a career path and develop the most beneficial pathways for those students to achieve their goals and dreams.

"I've also served as a homecoming parade judge," Meyer added and smiled as she said, "This time, I got to be IN the parade. That was a lot of fun."

The list of achievements in the awards ceremony program included service on the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) Alumni Society Board of Directors, the CLA's Alumni Society's Admitted Student Calling Outreach Program and she has participated in many career-mentoring efforts. University-wide, she has volunteered with the Eastern Nebraska University of Minnesota Alumni Association (UMAA) chapter; helped to found and volunteer with the Southeastern Minnesota UMAA chapter; served as the Southeastern Minnesota representative to the UMAA National Board of Directors; and, she served on the UMAA National Board Programs Committee where she assisted in the selection of numerous Alumni Association award recipients.

However, all of these achievements pale in comparison to what she is most proud of - the establishment of an endowment that provides an annual scholarship for a non-traditional student.

"I saw my first scholarship recipient graduate last year," Meyer said. "It was wonderful to see how she was transformed. She came in as a shy, timid student, but really blossomed during her time at the university."

This fall, Meyer met the second student to receive the scholarship she funds and even included her in a local Thanksgiving celebration.

The idea for establishing the scholarship came during a phone call from a student on behalf of the alumni association. "Then President (Robert H.) Bruininks was making a push to get individuals to donate towards scholarships," she explained. "I had included the University in my will years ago, but I thought why not give those resources now?"

Meyer explained she wanted to help a non-traditional student pursue her educational dreams because Meyer, herself, had been a wife and mother whose educational dreams had been supported by a small scholarship.

According to an article from the college publication M in the summer of 2005, written shortly after Meyer had established her endowment, Meyer had gotten married during her senior year in high school and made an agreement with her then-husband. She would postpone college to put him through school when he completed his military service, then he would do the same for her.

One child and 14 years later, while moving up the ranks at United Airlines, she decided it was her turn. The year was 1971.

Meyer took a four-year leave from her job in Chicago and moved to Minnesota. Then Meyer's husband hurt his back, leaving her as sole support for the family. Undeterred, she decided to work extra hard and get through school quickly. But because her husband's income was cut off, she needed financial help. It was too late to apply for scholarships and she was ineligible for loans. The University came through with a $400 scholarship from Campus Carnival.

"I've never forgotten that seemingly insignificant amount from Campus Carnival," she had told M.

Meyer received her first degree in 1973, a bachelor of arts degree in speech communication, just two years after entering college. She had taken 25 to 28 credits each quarter. Because she still had time left in her leave of absence from work, Meyer continued her education and earned her master's degree in speech communication in 1974. After working several years in Chicago where she became manager of Human Resources for United Airlines, she returned to the U of M to earn her Ph.D. in speech communications in 1981.

"Paying it forward" is the best way Meyer can think of to show her gratitude for the education she received and to honor those who had been part of her own journey.

"I am so appreciative to have been honored and acknowledged for doing something for the University," Meyer concluded. "I am so grateful for my education and for the people who were there for me. I can only hope that those I am helping today will help the students of tomorrow."