I have always said that working in alumni affairs is the best job at a university because you work with students, you work with faculty and you work with staff. You get a feel for the different parts of the university and how the university works.
You also get to work closely with alumni volunteers, and that’s how I first met Jayne Holder.
It would be almost impossible to spend any length of time at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga over the last 30 years and not know Jayne. She has been an ambassador for the Mocs and the University, sporting blue and gold as the unofficial mayor of Chattanooga. What started as a professional connection blossomed into a friendship. We were both Alpha Delta Pi sorority members; we had mutual contacts; and she took on positions of increasing prominence, eventually becoming the alumni board president.
While in that role, we had an administrative assistant position become available. I remember talking to the former chancellor, Fred Obear, about hiring Jayne to join my staff, and he said to me, “I know you and Jayne are really good friends, so I have a question for you. Can you fire her?” i said, “I’m not going to need to fire her. There’s no way I’ll have to worry about that.”
Hire people smarter than you that will make you look good. That’s what Jayne did for me.
And he said, “I want you to think about that question.”
Because he had been a chancellor here for many years, it made me really think, and it turned out to be one of the best lessons I learned in management. You must separate the friendship part out of a job. That doesn’t mean you can’t recognize talent, though, and Jayne was a great hire. She taught me another excellent management lesson: Hire people smarter than you that will make you look good. That’s what Jayne did for me. She had my weaknesses covered.
I have always been about school spirit, so I used to make our staff dress alike as often as possible. It became a running joke with people at UT and at the system level. Now we do it by accident. A couple of years ago, Jayne and I were going to a legislative network meeting in Nashville. When I came to campus to pick her up, we had on almost the same outfits, down to our white winter overcoats. We didn’t have time to change, so when we got to the meeting and people saw us dressed alike, they were in hysterics.
Jayne has provided many laughs over the years. One time, I was giving a presentation at a conference in Atlanta about collaborations between alumni affairs and athletics, and I thought it would be great if Scrappy came and participated as part of the presentation. The student who was Scrappy at the time couldn’t attend because he had class, so I convinced Jayne to be Scrappy. Imagine trying to give a presentation with Jayne walking around flapping her wings.
After I became Chancellor Roger Brown’s chief of staff in 2006, Jayne was under consideration for the alumni director role. I remember her saying, “I don’t know that I could do the job.” I told her, “Are you kidding me, Jayne? We’ve been grooming you for that job.” It was a no-brainer. A great alumni director educates students when they first come to the university so that they’ll want to stay involved after they graduate, and that’s what Jayne did. She was very good at details. She never met a stranger. She has terrific ideas on how to engage people. And, of course, she loves the university.
Jayne retired on June 30 this year, and UTC will not be the same without her. Between the two of us, we spent almost 35 years as the leaders of alumni affairs, which is virtually unheard of. We haven’t talked about it a lot, but it will be our shared legacy and something we were proud to do together.
And I promise that, purely coincidentally, Jayne and I will show up at some function wearing similar outfits.