After 38 years, working with thousands of undergraduates and hundreds of MBAs and PMBAs, traveling on dozens of recruiting trips overseas and domestically, serving two WashU schools and even suffering through one five-month layoff, Jan Snow is about ready to close this chapter and move into retirement.
Snow, who has served for more than 13 years as the unofficial “mama bear” to hundreds of PMBAs in her role as director of professional MBA student services, has announced her retirement effective November 1, 2019.
“I announced it pretty early because I wanted to see if my replacement would come and I could help with the continuity,” Snow said, typically thinking as much about the school’s future as her own. “I’m leaving now because I’m still healthy enough to do some traveling and can do some volunteer work.”
Until then, Snow’s third-floor office retains the look of an archivist’s closet, adorned with a crush of statuettes, figurines, paintings, icons and images recalling her many overseas trips and the scores of students—international and domestic—who have expressed appreciation for her counsel, friendship and shoulder while they attended WashU Olin.
“Every evening when arriving for class, like clockwork, Jan would always be standing by the door greeting us with a smile and kind words,” Melissa Arning Leuthardt, PMBA ’09, said, recalling her time as a student at Olin.
In Snow’s office, there’s the bedazzled green dolphin from the Dominican Republic, the Japanese kanji spelling her name, the African dolls she had made during a recruiting trip, the jade dragon, at least four fans and so much more from trips and students representing Venezuela, Lebanon, China, Korea and significant portions of Europe.
And there are pictures—so many pictures of current and past PMBA students. There’s the “Indian Mafia”—her nickname for several Indian students who leaned heavily on her help and included her in numerous social gatherings. There are yearbook-style sheets of past PMBA classes. Group shots from social outings and overseas gatherings. A picture of one alum cradling his infant son in the crook of his arm.
“I became unofficial mother, so I got to know lots and lots of the international students,” she said. The students are what gets her up in the morning. “I honestly feel close to all of them. When someone asks who do you want to have at your retirement party? Well, I want the students. The students are the reason I’ve been doing this.”
Students took Snow’s role to heart.
“During GO! Weekend, I was making my plate for lunch and Jan called me out for not having any vegetables,” said Tom Dart, PMBA ’22. “I took them because I was afraid she was going to call my mom.”
Snow has worn Diwali sarees and attempted to cook Indian food for students. She’s attended happy hours after PMBA classes. She’s kept in regular touch with students as far flung as the former Soviet republic of Georgia and Shanghai.
The high regard she holds among students and colleagues came to the fore the week of August 4—the day she arrived in Shanghai to accompany the first-year MBA students on their global immersion. Two days later, she awoke to news that the second floor of her Maplewood home had been gutted by fire, killing one of her cats and ruining most of her belongings with water, smoke and fire damage.
The Olin community rallied with a fundraiser, raising a substantial amount that has helped her meet urgent needs that insurance can’t or hasn’t yet addressed. “You can’t even imagine this outpouring of money and love,” she said. “It’s been hard for me. I told the dean that my father would be rolling in his grave if he knew I was accepting money.”
Snow is determined to make sure the personal tragedy isn’t the defining moment of her time at WashU, which included five years doing undergraduate recruiting for the School of Engineering, a five-month layoff from that position, three years as associate director of MBA student services and 13 in her current role.
“I’m going to miss the students. My nephew has three boys and they asked me whether I had any children. I said I have 300,” Snow said. “It’s going to be hard saying goodbye.”