MOUNT VERNON — Janet Shriver Roelofs, a gifted writer and valued colleague in the Kenyon College Office of Development, died on Wednesday, March 31, 2010, at the Country Club Retirement Campus in Mount Vernon after a long illness. She was 85.
Janet was a longtime resident of Gambier. She retired in June 1995 as director of grants and reports, and she had also worked at the Kenyon Review, said her son, Kemp Owyne Roelofs of New York City. She was the widow of Gerrit Hubbard Roelofs, a professor of English who died in 1985. They had been married for 36 years. Their son, Hugh Cameron Roelofs, died in 2003.
She was a precocious student and a voracious reader, Kemp Roelofs said. Janet was a private person, on the shy side, but “had a great sense of humor” in the company of friends.
“She once said that someone at work had told her that she was a really driven person,” her son recalled. “She sat back for a few minutes and thought about it. And then she said, ‘Yes, I am a driven person.’ She didn’t think about those things. She wasn’t at all self-absorbed.”
Janet was reared in Dayton, Ohio, where she learned to read, write, and do basic arithmetic before she entered school. The family later moved to suburban Baltimore, Maryland. Janet skipped three grades along the way and enrolled in the Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, at age 15. She went on to earn a master’s in English literature at Johns Hopkins University, where she met her future husband. They named their sons after favorite professors.
Janet worked for the Johns Hopkins University Press before she and her husband moved to New Hampshire, where he took at job at the University of New Hampshire in 1950. They arrived in Gambier in 1957, when Garrit Roelofs became part of the Department of English. Janet was a freelance editor, joined the staff of the Kenyon Review, and later went to work as a writer in the development office.
“She was a wonderful writer,” said Douglas L. Givens, managing director of the Philander Chase Corporation and former vice president for development. “She was a wonderful person to have in the office. She took an interest in everything. She loved the College and had a tremendous knowledge of the College and its history and traditions and programs.”
In the late 1970s, Janet came up with a clever spin on the idea of endowed chairs to raise money for the construction of the Bolton Theater. Plaques on some chairs in the theater mark donors who agreed to “endow a chair.” She later wrote the proposal that brought the College a $5.5 million grant from the Olin Foundation for construction of the Olin Library.
Kenyon historian Tom Stamp described Janet as “incredibly smart” with a passion for the English language. “She was just a wonderful person,” he said.
Janet was a quiet presence but her understanding and judgment of others proved valuable in an office where success hinges on personal relations, said Lisa D. Schott, director of Alumni & Parent Programs. “She didn’t miss a thing,” Schott added.
Janet rarely watched television and consumed three to five books each week, Kemp Roelofs said. She was a lifelong reader of the New Yorker, a magazine to which her father subscribed from its first issue, in the year she was born. She also loved the theater, and the family often traveled to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, Canada.
Janet is survived by her son. The Dowds-Snyder Funeral Home in Mount Vernon is handling burial arrangements. Janet will be buried next to her husband in the College cemetery. No public service is planned.
Online condolences may be expressed to the family at www.snyderfuneralhomes.com.
The Dowds-Snyder Funeral Home in Mount Vernon is honored to have been chosen to serve the family of Janet S. Roelofs.
Obituary written by Kenyon College.