While at Regina, Jean was known as a basketball phenome who led her team to multiple championships. Jean played JV basketball her freshman year followed by 3 seasons on the undefeated Varsity Team. During her senior year Jean was known as part of the ‘fearsome five” that racked up 80% of Regina’s total points.
After Regina, Jean attended the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign for her undergraduate degree, where she met her future husband, John Donnelly. Jean and John married on January 13, 1979 in Evanston, and Jean finished her bachelor’s degree in interior design via correspondence course. Jean spent several years as a homemaker with four children, where she always found time to be an active and dedicated member of every community she called home.
Jean’s volunteer work included being a room mother, volleyball/basketball/softball coach, and Girl Scout Leader, along with helping with many other church and school activities. She rejoined the professional world as her children got older, first as the gym teacher at Notre Dame Elementary School. She held the position of Superintendent of Municipal Services in Michigan City, IN from 1996-1998 and was commended for her improvements to the city’s public services during her tenure. When Jean and her family moved to Overland Park, Kansas in the fall of 1998, she became involved in her children’s new elementary school – Cure of Ars – and assumed the position of Athletic Director for the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) at that school, a position she held for several years, culminating with the gym at the school being named after her upon her depart ure. While holding that role, Jean earned a master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of Kansas.
Shortly after receiving her masters’ degree, Jean was diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare salivary gland cancer. She underwent surgery to remove the tumor and overcame difficult odds to resume a full and active life. Though her cancer reappeared a few years later in her lungs, Jean continued to volunteer, work, and be another mom to most of the people in her life – she was a constant source of strength and support for her community by helping people move, getting folks to and through college, making t-shirt quilts, putting finances in order, and generally being there for whatever anyone needed. Jean continued to work as the athletic director for Cure of Ars, as well as for Richter & Reda accounting firm, and she volunteered for Teach for America Kansas City region and then held a part-time role for two years on TFA’s Chicago summer institute team.
Shortly after moving back to northwest Indiana in October 2008, Jean began volunteering for Marquette Catholic High School (which two of her children had attended) and then assumed the role of Academic Advisor on staff. In that position, she designed schedules, created and taught college preparatory classes, led college campus visits, and worked with students one-on one to get them into college and ensure they were financially able to attend. Her dedication to a strong and well-rounded education came through clearly in every interaction she had with everyone she touched. Jean passed away November 6, 2015 after her courageous battle with cancer.