Tribute to Jennifer Hamlin Church
SHU Alumni Director for 20 years
Editor’s Note: Longtime Director of Alumni Relations and Associate Vice President of Advancement Jennifer Hamlin Church retired in November 2015 after more than 20 years at Siena Heights University. As a special sendoff, Reflections asked a few of her past and present colleagues to pen some personal words of tribute.
Deborah Carter ’15 / Hon. – Retired Dean of the College for Professional Studies
‘Classy’ and ‘elegant’ are two words that come to mind when I think of Jennifer Hamlin Church. Her elegance comes through in her beautiful writing, and she is well aware that well-crafted language has the power to evoke powerful emotional responses, make people feel that they belong, provide meaning and further Siena’s mission. The first time I heard the ‘Voices of Siena’ I knew the beautifully crafted pieces were written by Jennifer. It was my pleasure to organize two book signings for her first book, So Much to Live For, A Memoir of Love, Loss and Living On.
Jennifer understands the importance of relationship building in Alumni Relations, and developed personal connections with alums which deepened their feelings of connection to Siena. Jennifer transformed the outreach to students and alumni of Siena Heights University’s off-campus sites, creating the hugely successful annual holiday event on the west side of the state. She added off-campus graduates to the Alumni Board, and turned the conversation toward creative ways of engaging off-campus students.
Jennifer is a bold and adventurous traveler. She famously opened National Geographic, saw an ad for a horse-back trip to Mongolia and signed up. It was my pleasure to participate in three travel abroad trips: Siena, Italy 2004, Greece and Turkey, 2011, and Siena, Italy 2014. Travel was more fun with Jennifer. Best wishes as you retire, JHC! May you write more books, travel to exciting places and thoroughly enjoy the next phase of your life! I know we will stay in touch.
Sister Pat Schnapp ’12 Hon. – SHU faculty member
Jennifer is simply a class act—not only a gifted writer, but a creative and accomplished woman who puts upbeat energy into all she does—and into others as well.
She is a marvelous organizer (think about the growth in alumni participation, especially in Homecoming!), an enthusiastic supporter of all things related to Siena, from plays to Shakespeare parties (in costume), a great supporter of the arts, a gracious hostess, and a warm and welcoming presence in the Alum-ni Office. She has blessed Siena by generously sharing her many gifts and her gracious self, and she’ll be sorely missed.
Keith Rusie ’99 – Past President of SHU Alumni Association Board of Directors, Saintly Supporter
Siena has been blessed to have Jennifer serve as our Alumni Relations director. Her creativity, charm, intelligence and, most importantly, her love for people have enabled her to be incredibly effective at building lasting relationships between the University and its alumni.
During my service on the Alumni Board, we worked to find ways to allow past Alumni Board members to remain engaged. Jennifer cham-pioned the role of the Saintly Supporter. As the group continues to grow in its size and support for Siena, it will serves as one of many listing tributes to Jennifer’s accomplished years of service.
Mary Small Poore ’76 – Outgoing Alumni Board President
It has been a privilege and honor working with Jennifer Church for the past 8 ½ years. When I joined the Alumni Board, she was the first person who met me with open arms at my first meeting. Our friendship and my admiration for her and all she has accomplished have grown from there. She has the gift of making everyone feel valued and special. I have never known someone who has such an ability to engage ANYONE in conversation.
It still amazes me how she can remember so many people—their names and facts about them. That has truly led her to be such an incredible Alumni Director. I think one of her greatest assets is her writing skill. She can make a standard email to the Board epic and fun to read. Her letters to alumni and articles in Reflections Magazine over the years have carried so much meaning and the true spirit of Siena.
Jennifer is a magnificent planner. I am still amazed at the number of times she has taken dozens of suggestions and ideas from a Board meeting and then magically created some of the most memorable University events.
One of my greatest memories of Jennifer will be the day the Board announced she’d been selected as the 2013 Honorary Alumna. She was truly touched by the sentiments shared by those who nominated her. She was so very deserving of the award, and yet so humbled by it. Jennifer is a living example of our University’s mission. She has always been competent, purposeful and ethical in her activities on behalf of the Alumni of Siena Heights University. I am so sorry to lose her at Alumni Director but know she had laid an excellent foundation for those who will follow.
Lesley Weidner – Central Michigan Regional Director, SHU College for Professional Studies
1995 was a year of many changes for me. As a new mom returning to work after maternity leave, I was a little anxious about meeting my new boss, Jennifer Hamlin Church, who was hired to fill the new position in Communications and Alumni Relations. As we settled in to our office with no walls, I had no choice but to answer Jennifer’s many QUESTIONS as she got to know Siena Heights College, and listen to her LAUGH as people stopped by the office to welcome her . . . Questions & Laughter—two of Jennifer’s characteristics that have not changed in the last 20 years!
Jennifer’s passion for learning and ability to bring fun and laughter into our daily work changed the way I viewed my job. My experiences working with her continue to influence and guide me daily. While we only shared an office for three years, I am blessed and grateful for our friendship that has spanned two decades. Jennifer is one of those people that when you hear her distinct laugh you want to walk across the room or down the hallway to find her.
Jennifer, I know I speak for many when I say “thank you for being you.” Your time at Siena has truly been a gift to your colleagues, friends, and alumni. Thank you for your laughter, smiles, and inspiration along the way. Congratulations, and best wishes on your retirement!
Steve Ott – Former SHU Communication Specialist (1998-2001) and Off-Campus Marketing Director (2001-06)
Jennifer was my second real-job ‘boss’ after graduating from college. I won’t be writing any tributes for my first! However, Jennifer’s leadership helped shape the professional I am today. She models a great blend of intellect, humor, optimism, and kindness in all of her work.
Siena Heights University is a better place because of her contributions to creating community among its graduates.