By Amanda Dyslin
---- — MANKATO — There are those people in life whose unyielding kindness and warmth lift up those around them, whose focus is always outward — never on themselves.
Lois Jaeger, fine arts director at Bethany Lutheran College, is certainly one of those people. The woman is pure sunshine, and during my seven-year tenure on the arts and entertainment beat for The Free Press, I never looked forward to seeing anyone more than her.
Selfless and modest, Lois was immeasurably uncomfortable with the idea of being interviewed about retiring from Bethany this spring. She said anytime I want to feature the college in my newspaper, she’s all for it. But as for her? She insisted there’s just no need.
Her colleagues in the theater and music departments at Bethany beg to differ. She has served as the much-needed rock of organization amongst so many creative, free-thinking spirits. She’s tirelessly planned, scheduled, budgeted, overseen and promoted Bethany events, and she’s always done it with a smile on her face, insisting that the faculty and students were the ones with the hard jobs.
“The faculty members are as ambitious and hard-working as they are talented and so committed to the institution and the students. I am thankful to count them among my very best friends,” Lois wrote in a Q & A with Mankato Magazine in 2010.
And so, Lois, we all decided that it’s absolutely fine if you don’t want to be interviewed about your retirement. But you can’t stop us from sharing with readers what you have meant to Bethany for all these years.
A tour guide, a friend
I met Lois when I first arrived to Bethany in 2001. I was pretty timid as a freshman and distinctly remember wandering the halls trying to find out where the heck I was supposed to be. (Yes, it is possible to get lost at Bethany.)
Lois happened to wander by, dropped what she was doing, and personally showed me everywhere I needed to be around the building. Since then she has continued to be the warmest, most patient and selfless leader and coworker I have ever experienced, and my time at Bethany would not have been nearly as complete without her influence. Her laugh, cooking, tireless leadership and relentless support will be profoundly missed in the YFAC.
— Benji Inniger, theater instructor
‘Lois and her ‘Eulogies’’
Anyone who has ever attended one of our artist series events has heard Lois deliver one of her polished welcomes (I call them eulogies).
These little speeches are masterpieces which show, over and over again, a keen sense of her appreciation for the work that goes into creating great art, and for the human element in the performance, which joins the audience and the performer even before the performance begins.
These brief introductory remarks also highlight her ability to bring people together around the arts through attention to detail, careful planning, good humor and gracious execution. All who have had the opportunity to work with her have grown to appreciate those gifts, and they have certainly made my work as a teacher and conductor at Bethany even more pleasant.
— Dennis Marzolf, music instructor
A real giver
Lois is the Bethany Fine Arts’ biggest cheerleader and advocate. She legitimately is excited about everything all of us are doing, and she wants to tell the world that this little college has incredibly worthy and awesome stuff going on, and that people on campus and off should take note.
Lois is kind. One might even say that she leads with kindness. She seems to be hard-wired to be a pleaser. She wants everybody to be happy and comfortable. She brings homemade breakfast to our division meetings. She has always hosted the Fine Arts Christmas party at her own home, and let me tell you, those parties would put Martha Stewart to shame. They are legendary.
Lois will work her tail to the bone to make her colleagues look good and then will slip into the shadows herself. She works harder and longer than anyone really knows, and it is all selfless work. She never expects praise.
To sum up, Lois completely embodies the Bethany spirit. If ever there was a person to take continued life lessons from, it’s Lois Jaeger. She will be sorely missed.
— Pete Bloedel, theater instructor
Husband and colleague
As you know, being a Christian college that takes its religion seriously (as Lois and I do), it has been a tremendous blessing for us to attend daily chapel services together for all 21 years that Lois has worked at Bethany. For us personally that has been the most important.
Lois and I ushered every “Christmas at Bethany” concert for at least 12 years (maybe as many as 15 years). That’s five concerts per year. You can do the math! We loved doing that together!
I enjoyed watching and hearing Lois introduce guest artists over the years as well. I’ll always remember when she introduced the Vienna Choir Boys. Great memory!
Lastly, I have to tell you that Lois and I had our first date while on a choir tour during our Bethany days. We were on an eastern tour, and we stopped for a day at Niagara Falls. Quite a first date, huh?
— Steven Jaeger, husband and vice president for student affairs
A stay at the ‘Jaeger Inn’
Lois has been the life-blood of this building, and I don’t know what we will do without her!
I personally have benefited from the “Jaeger Inn” on more than one stormy winter night. There is one time in particular when I was pregnant with our third child, and in the middle of tech week for a Choraliers production. The weather was questionable, and Lois insisted that I not make the drive home to the Twin Cities late at night in a snowstorm, but that I stay with them for the night. As our daughter was born only three days later, Lois and Steve had a narrow miss on that one!
Lois is the heart of the Bethany Fine Arts community. I have laughed with her and cried with her. She has been a true friend through some of the highest and lowest moments of my life. She’s rejoiced in our successes and been there to pick up the pieces when I’ve fallen flat on my face. She is supportive, both publicly in the things she says about her colleagues, and privately in the notes that she writes (all of which I’ve saved by the way).
— Ann Fredrickson, Choraliers director
Bethany won’t be the same
It seems a little odd to think of Bethany fine arts without Lois Jaeger. Lois has been referred to as “the glue that holds the fine arts department together.” And that’s not an exaggeration.
It really takes someone special and committed to manage the day-to-day operations of a department that hosts literally dozens of annual events. From her attendance at nearly every fine arts event (and many events beyond the arts), to relentlessly promoting the arts in general, to being a friend to just about everyone on campus, it would be crazy to think that Bethany will be the same without Lois.
While we won’t be able to replace Lois Jaeger, I do know that her family will appreciate having more time to spend with her — especially her wonderful grandchildren.
Wishing Lois all the best in retirement.
— Lance Schwartz, director of institutional communication