We all know that a friendly, professional support team is as vital to a department as dedicated teachers and lively, questioning students. The Department of English Literature at Reading is very fortunate in our support team, and so we are a little sad in wishing one of our longest-serving members a long and happy retirement.
In her twenty-seven years with us, Jean Call has adjusted to endless changes in what we do and how we do it, and at every point she has been a tremendous asset. Generations of nervous first-years have received authoritative advice on how to change a module or submit an essay; generations of forgetful academics have also been reminded of how our systems work. Many thousands of marks and scripts have been processed with great care and accuracy. In many of our most vital tasks, Jeans has enabled the Department to function.
Behind the scenes, Jean has held things together in ways that were never in the job description. On open days and visit days, many of them on Saturday, Jean set things up in advance and was the last to leave at the end of the day. And we now know that the reason our department tea-towels and dishcloths are so fiercely white is because Jean took them home for a proper boil-wash. When students turned up to the department in distress, Jean would not let them wander off until a plan of care was put in place. She looked after ‘my Part 1s’ (as she always called them) as people that she cared about on a human level.
We have also caught glimpses of her creative side: the knitted nativity scene, the prize-winning ‘Pudsey’ cake, and (combining two talents!) the knitted birthday cake. She has built-in spirit-level vision that is invaluable to anyone putting up posters. Jean also allowed us to know of a family tragedy in an inspiring way, by inviting us to become involved in the Ollie Young foundation, whether by buying cakes or by running marathons barefoot.
In many important ways, and in all sorts of less visible but lovely ways, Jean has been an essential part of us. All of us, staff and students, will miss her.