From her first day as student to her last day as associate vice president for alumni affairs, Jane Danchisen Pittman ’89 has been a stalwart member of the Shenandoah community.
She worked intensively with the university’s alumni and donors and created close-knit bonds with them, especially the Dayton alumni. During her time at Shenandoah, Pittman was at the helm of hundreds of university and alumni events and started the university’s annual Homecoming Weekend celebration in the early 1990s. And, after nearly 30 years of dedicated service, she made the difficult decision to leave Shenandoah and return to her hometown of Marblehead, Ohio.
Pittman always knew that she would eventually return to Ohio. With her mother and aunt turning 90 and 95 this summer and her daughter, Marilee Pittman Clemons ’12, ’16 and her husband living in Grove City, Ohio, while she completes her pharmacy residency at The Ohio State University, Pittman recently realized the time was right to move.
Though Pittman is beginning a new chapter in her life, Shenandoah and her Hornet family will always have a place in her heart.
In 1989, she earned her Master of Business Administration degree from Shenandoah and joined the university full time as director of annual resources & alumni affairs. However, Pittman was a little hesitant about the job at first, saying, “I can’t ask people for money.” Over the years, she came to realize that the job wasn’t about asking people for money but building relationships with them. And building these relationships with alumni and donors would become one of the most rewarding parts of her career.
Jane has consistently demonstrated a genuine personal interest in caring about every alumna and alumnus of Shenandoah, especially alumni of the Dayton era. She has become a friend of all who have worked with her. She is able to converse with and about Dayton alumni (and often their families) of all classes, both living and deceased, as though they were a part of her own family.” —Maurice “Marty” W. Martindale ’58
Pittman’s first two major gifts were from Skip Hill ’49 and Ron Collins ’60, both of whom created scholarships in their parents’ names. Another fundraising highlight was a $100,000 gift from Allie Higgins Fulp ’31 in the mid-1990s for Ruebush Hall. She vividly remembers that visit and Fulp saying she wanted to make a difference and not make a gift in “dribs and drabs.” Throughout her career, Pittman has raised millions of dollars for the university.
During her time at the university, Pittman served in a number of roles, and because of her commitment and service to Shenandoah, she received the James R. and Mary B. Wilkins Appreciation Award in 2005.
Her various other titles throughout the years included director of alumni & parent affairs, director of development, assistant vice president for alumni & donor relations, assistant vice president for development, associate vice president for development, associate vice president for advancement, associate vice president for leadership gifts, and finally, associate vice president for alumni affairs. To this day, she still has all eight of her business cards!
No matter what position she held, Pittman always helped keep the university’s history in Dayton alive. She was selected as the first recipient of the university’s professional development leave, using the time to compile the first-ever Dayton Alumni Directory in 2013. She also led several projects for the Dayton alumni that will have a lasting impact, including the construction of the Dayton Gallery on Winchester’s main campus; installation of the Shenandoah College & Shenandoah Conservatory of Music exhibit at the Heritage Museum in Dayton, Virginia; development of the Dayton Alumni Hall of Fame; and establishing the Dayton Alumni Scholarship Fund, which is now endowed.
“Jane is such a remarkable person, and she was so supportive of us,” said Dayton alumnus Robert D. Crawford ’56. “I’m confident that there wouldn’t really be an active Dayton alumni group if it hadn’t been for Jane.”
She not only kept the Dayton legacy alive through these projects, she also worked tirelessly to keep the small beginnings of Shenandoah in focus and beneficially connected to the present university, which boasts seven schools and more than 100 academic programs. Dayton alumnus Carl D. Harris ’59 says Pittman always found meaningful ways to support each group and often merged the two. Frequently, she would bring current Winchester students or faculty to Dayton alumni activities, or she would encourage the Dayton alumni to attend or participate in Winchester activities. Harris said that, through the years, Dayton alumni developed great pride in the Winchester campus as Pittman planned activities “with us” and not “for us.”
In December 2017, the Jane Danchisen Pittman ’89 Legacy Scholarship was created to honor Pittman’s service to the university. The scholarship is to be awarded to students from her home state of Ohio.
Pittman is now director of charitable gift planning at Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices in Marblehead, Ohio. In her new role, Pittman meets with residents of Otterbein North Shore as well as their families, building relationships, raising money and promoting the facility in the community. And the part-time position couldn’t be a more perfect fit. Otterbein is a United Methodist-affiliated organization; it was started in 1912 by the United Brethren Church, which also established Shenandoah in 1875.
“I see my job as a continuation of my role at Shenandoah University,” Pittman said. “I know a lot of the residents, and I like working with the older population and sharing my hometown with them.”
Just as she preserved Shenandoah’s Dayton history, Pittman aspires to write a book about her hometown of Marblehead, located on Lake Erie between Cleveland and Toledo. It’s a summer tourist area, known for boating, swimming and fishing. Her house is one-quarter mile from the historic Marblehead Lighthouse, which was built in 1821, and is the oldest, continuously operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes. She said she doesn’t just want the book to be about the history of the village, but instead, a compilation of the stories and memories of the people who live there.
“I want to compile the traditions and stories and keep alive the memories of the Slovak people of Marblehead, Ohio,” said Pittman. “After my generation, there will be very few people able to do this, and I believe it’s important for us to know about our ancestors — where they’re from, what they did and how we’re connected — just as I feel it’s important for our alumni, students, faculty and staff to know about SU’s history.”
With more than 28 years of service to the university, Pittman is an irreplaceable member of the Shenandoah family. She has made an invaluable contribution to the university and its alumni population. Pittman had the unique ability to make each person feel like they were an asset to her and the university.
“Jane is the person who reignited my interest in Shenandoah University several years ago, and she has been the unwavering influence to keep both my wife and myself involved as loyal supporters of my alma mater,” said Martindale. “We will miss her greatly in our contacts with Shenandoah, but we will always cherish her friendship and remain grateful for her positive impact on our lives!”