Jann Freed ‘77 is not quite ready to end her career as an educator, even if she won’t be teaching in a classroom. “I want to retire the word ‘retire’ because I’m not retiring. I’m transitioning,” Freed says.
Freed, professor emerita of business management, taught at Central for 30 years, most recently as the Mark and Kay De Cook Endowed Chair in Leadership and Character Development. After graduating from Central with honors, Freed took a different path than she originally expected. She was working in banking and earning her master’s degree in business administration from Drake University, with the intention of pursuing commercial sales. “Central had a position open, but I didn’t have any experience in teaching,” she says. “When I was hired, I thought it would be good experience for corporate training. I didn’t plan on staying at Central for a long time. But I feel very lucky that I did.”
During her first years at Central, Freed earned her Ph.D. in higher education administration from Iowa State University while teaching full-time. Looking back now, she is not sure how she commuted to Pella and then drove to Ames for classes two nights a week for years.
While Freed loves teaching, her passion in life is learning. “My main goal right now is to continue to share what I’m learning with others though workshops, coaching and writing,” she says. Freed hopes to build a firm focused on personal and organizational development. She believes organizations improve when people improve. Freed would often tell students that she had “continuous quality improvement (CQI) in her bloodstream,” as she integrated CQI into all of her courses.
With George Ann Huck, former resident director of the Central College Abroad Merida, Mexico program, Freed is the co-author of Women of Yucatan: Thirty Who Dare to Change Their World. Freed photographed the 30 women profiled in the book who challenged injustice in the Yucatan. Her bilingual photography exhibit associated with the book has been displayed in more than 25 public spaces around Iowa since 2000 and was exhibited in Merida in 2004. “Teaching and having spent a lot of time in the Yucatan broadened my horizons. It made me interested in social justice issues,” says Freed. “It made me think more globally.”
Along with her interest in photography, Freed is an advocate for community service. Over the years, she has been involved with several organizations, including United Way, Central Presbyterian Church and the Chrysalis Foundation. Since she will not be spending time commuting or grading papers, Freed wants to become even more involved with the greater Des Moines community.
In retirement, Freed will not only be leaving the college behind, but her students and colleagues too. “I want my students to think I was challenging, but fair; creative, but practical; compassionate, but with high expectations,” says Freed. “I want my students to feel like they got their money’s worth. I hope my colleagues feel as though I added value to campus.”
Recent graduate Ashley Ellingson ’11 knew Freed personally. After having her for multiple classes as a business management major, Ellingson was also a student worker for Freed. “Dr. Freed is one of the best professors I had during my career at Central. I could tell she truly cared about me as a student and as a person,” Ellingson says. “She had the ability to influence my life without even trying.”
The feeling was mutual for Freed; she says her former students still affect her life in meaningful ways. Her first students are now 52 years old, but she still stays in touch with some of them. She says several have been important resources and mentors for her over the years. “I consider the success of my former students to be my profit-sharing plan,” says Freed, “so all of you better keep succeeding for me.”
Q&A with Jann Freed
Q: What are your plans for retirement?
A: I want to increase my level of community involvement by using my leadership skills to advance some community causes. Through that, I hope to develop a network of professional friends from whom I can learn.
Q: What are your thoughts as you look back on your 30 years at Central?
A: I think about my children. I started teaching at Central before they were born. I have been teaching here their whole lives. I would bring them with me to campus, to football games, to volleyball games. I associate my career stages with my life stages because it is all about balancing the two. As my career grew, so did my children. My kids have been a direct influence on my life throughout this whole thing.”
Q: What advice would you give to beginning professors?
A: My advice is to take advantage of learning from the people around you. Graduate school does not prepare you to be a teacher. You have to learn as much about teaching and learning as possible because it will make you a better teacher.
Q: What are your thoughts on your legacy?
A: I am always thinking about legacy. It is left on a daily basis by our behaviors and actions. Legacy is defined by how we treat others, the decisions we make and how we respond under pressure. My hope is that my legacy is one where students felt they became better people because of what they learned in my classes and where my colleagues felt I made Central a better place during my career.
Watch Freed talk about her time at Central: