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In Memoriam: Janet Leggett

April 19, 2019

The following was sent to Middlebury College employees in an email from Cheryl Mullins, director of human resources on April 19, 2019.

Janet Leggett

Dear Colleagues,

It is with great sadness that I report that retiree Janet Leggett passed away, surrounded by family, on April 5, 2019 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. 

Janet started her career at the College in November of 1965, when she was hired as Secretary to the Financial Aid Officer. For most of her 32 year College career, Janet worked as Office Manager in the Dean of Students Office. This role became a very important part of her life. While working in the dean’s office, she was a welcome and calming presence for students, and many of these students stayed in touch with her for years after; on the day she died, the family had a phone call from a former student wondering how Janet was doing. Janet was inducted into the 25 Year Club in 1990. Long after she and her colleagues retired, they got together weekly for their “coffee clatches” at Steve’s Diner.  She cherished the continuity of these relationships.  

Janet was born to Roch and Simone (Bolduc) Malzac in 1933, here in Middlebury. Janet married Robert Leggett in 1950 and raised five children, Carolyn, Robbie, Jane, Judy, and David (“Crocky”). Janet is survived by her brother Roch Malzac and his wife, Liz, Janet’s five children Carolyn, Perine (Ken), Robbie (Joanne), Jane Roy (Eugene), David “Crocky” (Susie) all of Middlebury and Judy Whitney (Tim) of Chinook, Montana.  She is also survived by 12 grandchildren, 24 great grandchildren, close friends Joyce Sargent, Bill and Tiffany Sargent and children, and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews. 

She was well-known for her friendliness and kind heart, and loved people and loved to stay in touch. Bob and Janet's home was a regular gathering place for friends and family.  It evolved to the point where Thursday afternoons at their home in Middlebury will forever be called Thirsty Thursday. Janet enjoyed traveling with the family to the Caribbean and enjoyed her many trips to Montana to visit with her daughter, Judy, and her family. She was affectionately known as “Net” to her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  She was active in the American Legion Auxiliary, and a woman of great faith. She belonged to the congregation of St. Mary’s Parish in Middlebury where she also was a Lector. She was a long time worker for town voting, distributing ballots to town residents. 

Janet is the first in a very long line of Middlebury College employees over time who were family members:  Carolyn Leggett Perine, Jane Leggett Roy, Joanne Leggett, Heath Leggett, Eugene Roy, Henry and Nina Stowe, Bobby Stowe, Thad Stowe, Bill and Tiffany Sargent, Marc McDonough, Garry Sprigg, Traci Payne, Terri Bushey, Kate Livesay, and Shirley Lamothe. 

“Janet was one of the most caring, thoughtful, genuine colleagues I have ever worked with”, shared President Emeritus John McCardell. “Her presence set a tone that put one always at ease. She fought her last battle valiantly and with her typical grace. She will be missed.” 

“Janet Leggett was already working in Old Chapel when I was a student in the 1960s. She greeted me warmly when I came back nine years after I graduated to work with her in the Dean of Students Office. We worked closely there for nearly 20 years and remained friends when I moved to other parts of campus” recalled Karl Lindholm, Emeritus Dean of Advising and Assistant Professor of American Studies. “We worked closely there for nearly 20 years and remained friends when I moved to other parts of campus. Until its renovation in the mid-1990s, the Dean’s Office was contained in a large open area on the second floor of Old Chapel with a suite of offices surrounding a warm waiting area for students and a working space for administrative support. As Office Manager, Janet was the maître d’ of that busy space. With humor, warmth, candor, practicality, and efficiency, she made that operation work, and the various Deans of Students, from Erica Wonnacott to Ann Hanson, were indebted to her. She was indeed beloved by her colleagues. I loved working with Janet and am grateful to have been her friend.” 

“Janet was a key member of the Dean’s Office in the ‘70s. I worked with her in that office one summer when I was a student, and then enjoyed sharing Old Chapel stories with her for the next 40 years”, shared Betsy Etchells, Secretary of the Corporation Emerita. “For me, Janet represented the best of both the College and the Town: she worked hard, loved people, adored her family, enjoyed a good laugh, and was full of kindness for all.” 

“As a colleague, Janet was always quick to offer a smile and she was an easy laugh, but she also knew how to get things done”, remembered Dave Donahue ‘91, former Chief of Staff. “She had a rare blend of warmth, common sense, and honesty.  I think that combination allowed her to connect with students in a unique way and as a result students loved her.  She will be missed dearly by all who had the privilege to spend time with her.” 

“Jan was a fun, loving, caring and kind soul. I treasure memories from the many years that we worked together at Middlebury”, remembered Debbie Cousino, Atwater Commons Coordinator.

“In the years prior to the commons system, Jan Leggett was the heart and soul of the dean of students office at the college. She welcomed students, kept the dean’s schedules on track, and managed many other important aspects of the College’s affairs, such as tracking overall enrollment numbers”, shared Matt Longman, Dean of Wonnacott Commons. “Janet had an innate ability to sense when a student needed the support of a dean right away, and she forged genuine connections with many students. She is fondly remembered and celebrated by many alums.” 

“I had the very great joy of working with Janet Leggett during the 10 years prior to her retirement from Middlebury College.  In her role as the Dean of Student’s office manager, she led all of us with love, talent and a terrific sense of humor.  She was never too busy to listen to a student’s concern, comfort someone experiencing pain or disappointment, or talk calmly and rationally with someone who was in distress” remembered Ann Craig Hanson, Dean of Students Emerita. “Janet did her job with excellence.  She handled a huge variety of things, and she was always accurate.  She was not afraid to speak up if she did not like a decision that was made, but she had undying loyalty and love for Middlebury College.  She was a great source of history for the College. I learned so much from her.  She taught me about responsibility, about balance in life, about parenting, listening and supporting.  As many students would attest, she was a guardian angel to generations of Middlebury College students.  How lucky we all were to be able to have her in our lives. She found joy in every day and she helped her co-workers manage very stressful days with a smile, a laugh and a focus on the gifts we had.  In thinking about someone who truly lived her life well, it was Janet.  Rest in peace and love.” 

Some alumni of the College also shared memories of Janet: 

“As a young professional at my first ‘real’ job, Jan helped me think about the importance of first-impressions, but also to not take myself too seriously” recalled Hieu Nguyen ’92. “I have carried this lesson with me wherever I’ve gone and have helped others to realize the same.” 

“There is always an Angel on your path to be your company on scary days. To laugh with you on good ones, hug you on sad ones. At Middlebury, I had an angel. Mrs. Jan Leggett. She was more to me than there are words to describe” shared Rachel Allen ’93. “She Jamaica in Vermont. Walking into the Dean of Students office I was always guaranteed a warm smile-- especially on cold winter days when I was homesick. Thank you Mrs. Leggett...for everything. RIP.” 

“Jan hired me to work as a receptionist in the Dean's Office in 1985. I lived in Germany prior to coming to Middlebury, so my leather pants and blonde-streaked hair were a bit unfamiliar to her. It didn't matter. We became good friends, and I would always pop in for a visit when I returned to campus” remembered Paige Pierson ’89. “I was delighted to reconnect with Jan when my family moved here in 2006 and sometimes meet with the ‘old crew’ for breakfast. Over the last months, I shared cookies with her and rubbed her feet with lavender oil. I will cherish all my memories of her - she was a gem in every sense of the word. So glad she was part of my life.” 

“I loved Jan Leggett.  She'd laugh with you (really really hard), cry with you, tell you when you needed to shape up, offer her wisdom and warm thoughts, acknowledge a job well done, roll up her sleeves and work, remind you of the big picture, and always keep your confidences” recalled Rita Glavin ’93. “What a friend, colleague, and mentor.”

“Jan Leggett was one of the most kind, decent and genuine people I have ever known. I was lucky enough to come to know Jan during my years at Middlebury, and we developed a friendship that extended well beyond my years in Vermont.  Jan was always ready with a warm welcome, a good laugh, and her signature smile. She loved a good practical joke — regardless of whether she was on the giving or receiving end — and I always looked forward to sharing stories of some of the best practical jokes we had been in on over the years” shared Trystan Phifer O’Leary ’95. “Jan was a person of unwavering grace and strength. There was a steadiness about her nature that was calming and reassuring. She offered guidance and support in often clear, unvarnished terms, but always free of judgment and with gentle understanding. Without pretense or condition, Jan offered acceptance and support for those who crossed her path. She did not view it as her job or her role to change the people around her, but rather to enjoy them and to love them exactly as they were. The great irony of that, of course, is that knowing her and receiving her friendship, warmth and joy was transformative. I am so grateful to have known her, to share some adventures with her, and I will miss her greatly.”

The wake is on Thursday, April 11, 5p – 7p, Sanderson Funeral Home. Services will be held Friday, April 12 at 11:00 at St. Mary's Catholic Parish in Middlebury with a reception to follow at the VFW in Middlebury.  In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Addison County Home Health and Hospice, Porter Medical Center Arch Rooms, St. Mary’s Church in Middlebury or a charity of your own choosing.