Janse Haywood retires

As assistant to four deans over 42 years, Haywood served as an anchor for many in the Duke Law community

Janse Haywood

Looking back on more than 42 years at Duke Law School, Janse Haywood says that every highlight is about relationships: “Relationships with my colleagues, faculty, students, and others across campus. The Law School has truly been my home-away-from-home and the community has supported me in difficult times and shared my joy on happy occasions.” 

Haywood, who retired on Jan. 31 after serving as the administrative assistant to four deans and most recently working on special projects for the Office of Alumni and Development, has been an anchor for many in the Duke Law community.

Porter Durham ’85, who now chairs the Board of Visitors (BOV), is one of approximately 10,000 alumni who graduated over the decades Haywood has worked at Duke Law. He recalls first experiencing her “gifts of care and patience” when he was feeling lost on his first day of law school. 

“Always warm, smiling and interested, Janse did for me that afternoon what Janse always did during her time at Duke: she helped,” Durham says. “It was that simple but that important to the thousands of us, literally, who walked the halls or entered the dean’s office, not quite sure, off balance, out of kilter, shaken and stirred. Her demeanor let you know immediately that she understood and ‘had your back,’ in the ways that someone ‘in the know’ does, even when you are totally at a loss. This was her magic. While holding you up, while helping, she had the gift of humility that only comes from people who are genuine and authentic to the core. One could not ask for a better or more dear friend and pathfinder than Janse.”

For Charles S. Rhyne Clinical Professor of Law Theresa Newman ’88, Haywood epitomizes the collegiality that is a hallmark of the Duke Law community. “For even longer than I have been associated with the Law School — first as a student more than 30 years ago — Janse Haywood has been at the center of that community, with her deep personal warmth, impressive generosity of time and assistance, and truly stunning memory, with which she stores all of our names and other important facts, including our children’s names, graduation years, classmates, and, for faculty, areas of expertise, preferred teaching times, and so much more,” she says.

Haywood has “represented the best, indeed the heart, of Duke Law School for many wonderful years,” says Bob Pringle ’69, a partner at Winston & Strawn in San Francisco and longtime member of the BOV. 

“Indeed, a return to Duke Law, be it for a reunion or BOV meeting, always got off to a roaring start with a warm greeting from Janse followed by a sincere hug,” he says. “She has made a huge contribution to the Law School and its graduates, establishing the reality that engagement with the Law School need not — and assuredly should not — end on graduating and leaving its confines on Science Drive.” 

In the early years: all hands-on-deck in the dean’s suite

A native of Venice, Fla., Haywood moved to Durham in 1978, when her first husband began graduate studies at Duke. Having started a paralegal certificate in Florida, she accepted a position in the Office of the Dean at Duke Law over several others she was offered on campus. She began as secretary to the late Professor Melvin Shimm, then serving as associate dean under the newly installed dean, Paul Carrington. She eventually became the top administrative manager of the entire office, which she describes as an all-hands-on-deck operation.

“Everybody did everything in the dean’s office,” she recalls. “I was the Law School’s first communications person and did a weekly newsletter called The Herald. I became the first events coordinator and arranged all the faculty events. I did the student payroll. I read the students’ names at graduation. And as a member of the university’s Traffic Appeals Board, I was authorized to ticket cars in the Law School parking lot, which really tickled me.” 

Haywood worked with Carrington on the launch of Duke Law’s international programs, beginning with Duke in Denmark, and welcomed increasing numbers of international students, including the first law students from China. “My colleague Mary Monroe and I would meet them at the airport and help set up their apartments,” Haywood says. “It was very hands-on.” 

She got to know many students well in those early years, working closely with them on special projects, such as revising the Duke Bar Association constitution in the mid-’80s with Durham, who was then DBA president. She often typed their journal notes and resumes after hours (for a fee), sometimes partied with them, and bonded over their love of Duke basketball. 

“I went to my first basketball game and sat in the grad students’ section in the spring of 1979 and I was hooked,” says Haywood, who has proudly celebrated all five of the Blue Devils’ national championships on the floor of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Her first date in 1984 with Ken, her husband of 32 years and the brother of an early Duke Law colleague, was at a Blue Devils game, thanks to tickets supplied by Carrington. 

A cherished and valued assistant

Haywood calls working closely with Pam Gann ’73, who served as dean from 1988 to 1999, and her successor, Kate Bartlett, from 2000 to 2007, highlights of her time in the dean’s office (although she is quick to say that she has enjoyed and learned from all the deans she worked with there, including Carrington, Interim Dean Clark Havighurst, and David F. Levi). 

“I learned a lot about professionalism from Pam,” says Haywood. “I really appreciated her focus on leadership.” Bartlett, she says, had similarly high expectations and tremendous warmth. Haywood was their primary assistant as both oversaw considerable expansion of the faculty and the facilities and capital campaigns, and she provided the lead administrative management for the BOV. 

Gann praises Haywood’s “positive can-do attitude, combined with gracious friendliness and professionalism,” as well as her substantive contributions to and support for such initiatives as a strategic planning process that included several subject matter working groups composed of faculty and alumni and resulted in the development of a comprehensive strategic plan for the Law School. And Haywood’s extensive relationships with alumni were greatly beneficial to the Law School, says Gann, who was inaugurated as president of Claremont-McKenna College in California in 1999, with Haywood looking on.

“Janse is the reason that so many of the alumni, in particular, feel that someone at the Law School remembers him or her and knows that they are welcome back in person to the Law School.”

Former Dean Pam Gann ’73

“They knew Janse as their personal concierge for everything dealing with the Law School. They would call her up when they wanted to see the dean, when they needed a parking space, and when they wanted Duke basketball tickets. 

“Janse is the reason that so many of the alumni, in particular, feel that someone at the Law School remembers him or her and knows that they are welcome back in person to the Law School, whether it is for alumni weekend, or just dropping by when they are in Durham. That is a priceless asset for an institution.”

Bartlett, the A. Kenneth Pye Emerita Professor of Law, is similarly effusive in her praise. “Janse was an amazing assistant,” Bartlett says, listing “a positive attitude, a generous spirit, and an absolute commitment to Duke Law School” among Haywood’s many virtues. 

“As my assistant, she kept things straight, juggling many balls at once, while making each person with whom she dealt feel that their concerns mattered greatly to her. That included faculty, staff, students and, maybe especially, alumni. She knew more graduates of this law school than I did, including the names of their children and what firm they had recently moved to. 

“One of the things I valued most about Janse was how she kept her calm, no matter how intense things were around her. I can’t tell you how often she would use this calmness to good effect — defusing a faculty member’s anger, soothing an alumnus who had just lost his spouse, or keeping me on task in a crisis. In addition, Janse understood priorities, exercised excellent judgment, and remembered what needed doing when everyone else forgot.”

Decades of personal and institutional memories

Haywood jokes that her duties and devotion to Duke Law were such that as a child, her daughter Corinne called Duke “Mommy’s law school.” Her many cherished memories from her decades at Duke Law include: acquiring a beloved cat from a box of rescued kittens a student brought to the Law School in 1983; helping to organize and host a 1996 celebration at the U.S. Department of Justice in honor of then Douglas B. Maggs Professor of Law Walter Dellinger who was serving as acting U.S. Solicitor General; hiking and sharing a picnic on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay with Bob and Becky Pringle; and bunking at the Law School during and after Hurricane Fran in September 1996 along with her husband, daughter, and other staff, faculty, students, and families. 

Janse Haywood with group of people
Haywood, right, supporting the Blue Devils at the 2012 Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., with, L-R: Nancy Metzloff, Professor Thomas Metzloff and Richard Schmalbeck

“That was fun,” she recalls. “We slept on the floor in the Dean’s Suite for a few nights and people were bringing in food to cook and beer to share in the faculty lounge, which had a full kitchen. We all just hung out in different people’s offices and signed up for shower times. It brought the community closer.”

In 2016 Haywood, who has served on the staff of Duke Law Magazine since its creation in the 1980s and has, for many years, edited alumni notes for both print and web, became special projects assistant in the Office of Alumni and Development. There, her relational genius has been particularly useful. 

“Janse adores our alumni and cares deeply about recognizing the contributions they make to the strength of our network and our community,” says Associate Dean for Alumni and Development Kate Buchanan. “She has pored over the donor honor roll each year to ensure that thousands of names are properly spelled and that graduation years are accurate because she knows that each of those individuals has a very personal connection to Duke Law and reason for supporting our faculty and students long after they graduate. Most of all, Janse understands better than anyone with whom I have ever worked that each and every member of our community deserves a warm greeting, a timely response and a helping hand.”   

Says Charles L. B. Lowndes Professor of Law Sara Sun Beale: “Janse has been a tremendous ambassador for the Law School. Her warm and genuine interest in all of our students, faculty, and staff are evident in everything she does. She also remembers connections, such as letting me know that a former student from long ago is in the building so we can get together. With her retirement we are losing decades of our institutional memory.”

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Magazine Cover - Rebooting America

Winter 2021
Volume 40 | No. 1