For Jan Crowder, the day begins at 2:45 a.m., when she wakes up to board her early-morning carpool from Sacramento to Berkeley.
Around 5:40 a.m., as the sky is just beginning to brighten, she reaches her office at the LEAD Center, the campus leadership and advising center for student organizations, and begins her daily routine: Pick up a copy of The Daily Californian, check her schedule online and prepare for a busy day of meetings with student leaders.
The end of June will mark Crowder’s retirement after 30 years of work for the ASUC and 44 years for UC Berkeley. Last week, the ASUC Senate passed two bills recognizing Crowder and her colleague Irene Lam for their longtime service. Crowder was honored specifically for leaving behind a legacy of student leaders who have developed under her close mentorship.
“Jan is clear-thinking and indefatigably committed to contributing to the greater good … whether it be by giving some unsavory but needed advice to a well-meaning but misguided student or staff or by getting the party started with a laugh,” said Millicent Morris-Chaney, a UC Berkeley alumna and one of Crowder’s colleagues at the LEAD Center.
As former director of student affairs and a current LEAD Center coordinator, Crowder has been a source of constant support for hundreds of students over the years, advising them not only on organizational issues such as program planning and finances but also on personal and academic matters.
Morris-Chaney recalled how Crowder personally encouraged her to dream big and apply for a job with the ASUC Auxiliary after her own graduation from UC Berkeley 13 years ago.
“She saw qualities in me I did not know I had, and she supported the development of those qualities by encouraging my professional growth, providing honest and direct feedback and having confidence in my ability,” Morris-Chaney said.
Crowder has also worked closely with elected ASUC officials over the years, guiding them as they developed their visions.
“Student leaders come and go … but Jan was always there, keeping track of decades of student policy, constitutional changes and how to engage students without taking their agency from them,” said Nadesan Permaul, former director of the ASUC Auxiliary and a current UC Berkeley lecturer in rhetoric. “That is a gift.”
ASUC Executive Vice President Justin Sayarath remembered how Crowder reassured him during an especially stressful time last summer.
“Jan pulled me aside and helped me gather my thoughts,” Sayarath said. “She told me that I was doing a great job and that everything was going to be OK … (then) she sat down with me and ran through my plans to pack up the rest of the 300 organizations in Eshleman. She helped make the Lower Sproul surge successful, and I am so thankful for her.”
Since being hired as a typist in 1969 for Andrew Billingsley, one of the first faculty members of the campus department of ethnic studies, Crowder has gone through several different positions at UC Berkeley, including secretary at the chancellor’s office; office manager at the environment, health and safety office; director of student affairs in the ASUC and, now, a LEAD Center coordinator.
Her experiences within the various departments on campus have given her a wealth of knowledge about the inner functions of the school. Crowder attributes her success to the numerous staff members and students she has worked with.
“Everything I’ve done is with their support,” Crowder said. “It has been an experience of continuous educational growth for me.”
This support was especially crucial eight years ago, when Crowder was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though Crowder was declared cancer-free after only a couple of years of treatment, the experience caused her to reconsider her life philosophy.
“I know the cancer does come back,” Crowder said, “so I want to enjoy life while I can.”
Though Crowder is retiring, she plans to remain in steady contact with the students and staff members she has worked with during her term.
“It’s not just a job — I truly care,” Crowder said. “I’m a little bit sad about leaving … (but) it’s time for me to make way for the young ideas.”