When Jean Wollam reflects on her time as a student studying English at the U in
the 1960s, she much prefers to talk about her role models than herself. During her
years at the U, she had many professors who supported and encouraged her to follow
her passion for teaching, which led her to a lifelong career in education, which began
at the old Bingham High School in 1970.
“Jean was easily one my most memorable instructors,” said John Saltas, publisher
of the Salt Lake City Weekly and former student of Jean’s. “At the time, she wasn’t
much older than her students but was very much in tune with the times and trends that
challenged all of us back then. I’ve spoken to many classmates since and we all agree
that she left a positive impact on the students at Bingham High School.”
After Bingham High School was demolished in 1976, Jean moved to Brighton High School
where she continued to teach English until becoming a school counselor. Her love for
teaching then took her to a district-level position where she supported and trained
teachers working with advanced students. She retired in 2000 after a full career of
connecting and inspiring hundreds of students and teachers.
“I’ll always think well of Jean. I certainly would not have dared trying to become
a writer or publisher if not for her,” added Saltas.
Jean’s parents grew up during the depression and never had the chance to attend
college, which motivated Jean to pursue higher education. “My father worked for the
railroad, but he would’ve much preferred to have been a history teacher or a journalist and my mother wanted
to be an
elementary education teacher but didn’t have the opportunity. They did okay in their
lives but weren’t as happy or fulfilled as they could’ve been,” said Jean.
As a student at the U, Jean’s role models included her English professors, such
as the beloved Edward Lueders, William Mulder and especially Clarice Short. “Teachers
make a huge difference in whether or not you’re going to pursue a subject. Even though
you have interest or talent in the subject, teachers embracing you makes all the difference.”
Jean spoke admiringly about Short and recalled how her support and encouragement
helped Jean to continue her desire to pursue education. She particularly affected
Jean because she was one of the few women professors Jean had as a college student.
“At the time, young women in the early ‘60s weren’t ordinarily being encouraged to
get doctorates or go to medical school or any of those careers. Seeing accomplished
and interesting women [like Short] was an encouragement.”
With a desire to give back to the university to honor both her professors and
parents, Jean established the first endowed scholarship in the Department of Writing & Rhetoric
Studies in 2021 for students in the Writing Scholars program. The program provides
a bridge for students at Salt Lake Community College to transfer to the U and benefit
from the kinds of teachers Jean so passionately cares about.
Jean is gratified that her gift will make it possible for students like her to
find their passion. Passion, she said, is what makes life fulfilling.
Writing & Rhetoric Studies
Writing Studies Scholars is a community for Salt Lake Community College students who
major, minor, or pursue a certificate in writing and rhetoric studies. Serving a diverse
set of people, the program is composed of mostly first generation college students
who work at least part time. More than half are over the age of 25 and 41% identify
racially or ethnically from underrepresented communities. Of the 83 writing scholars
who have matriculated through the program, 90% have either completed degrees or are
on track to do so within two years.