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Jeniene Matthews: 2023 Retiree

Jeniene Matthews: 2023 Retiree
By Jackie Waters
Photo by Adam Richins 
 
Jeniene Matthews P’22 remembers the exact day she signed her St. Mark’s contract: May 10, 2010. As a practicing lawyer for 18 years, she certainly knew contracts, but she never expected to change careers and end up here.

“It was a lark,” says Jeniene, remembering how she was having a bad day at McDermott Will & Emery LLP in Boston when a friend called; it was former St. Mark’s counselor Jamie Greene. “What was your major?” Jamie asked. “And didn’t you row?” Within a matter of minutes, Jamie was convincing Jeniene, an English major and former crew captain, to apply for an open faculty position.

A native Californian and globetrotter, who did a stint in the Air Force and spent time as a public defender in Alaska, Jeniene calls the move her “biggest detour.” Sometimes, the detours in life turn out to be the roads we were destined to travel. “I was meant to be a teacher,” Jeniene says. “I am at my most authentic in the classroom, and at my most alive!” During her 13-year tenure at St. Mark’s, Jeniene taught all four levels of English and chaired the department for four years. She served as a faculty representative to the Board of Trustees; established the role of digital learning coach; lived in Thayer; assisted on a duty team in Thieriot North; coached varsity, JV, and thirds sports; chaperoned a trip to Chile; advised countless St. Markers; mentored new colleagues; savored summer professional development opportunities in Greece, England, and Scotland; and held the Evill-Glavin endowed faculty chair.

By her side have been Gregory, her partner of 30 years, and son Logan ’22. Those well acquainted with Jeniene can attest that her abiding love for these two men is rivaled only by her love for tacos! Arguably, one of Jeniene’s greatest gifts to the School (in addition to her family, her sense of humor, and her big heart) has been her signature VI Form elective, Literature on Trial. In this class, students read various novels while learning about the United States’ legal system, then wrote legal briefs and participated in a live “trial” of characters presided over by Judge Matthews.

As friend and colleague Maggie Caron, associate dean of students and director of residential life, explains, “It was truly a class like no other, and students raved that it was ‘so hard, but so cool.’ One section grew into two, and waitlists ensued. Jeniene’s course became the stuff of legend, the talking point on tours, and the class that III Formers couldn’t wait to take.”

Jeniene calls the class her “swan song” and notes that she loved the opportunity to teach students in their “bookend” years—as III Formers and then again as VI Formers—because it allowed her to witness their “phenomenal growth.” Her connection to students—and impact on them–is evident in the number of alumni with whom she regularly keeps in touch.

“To this day, former advisees and students seek out “Ms. M.” for a visit, a cup of coffee, or sage advice,” says Caron. “They sit with her at the Starbucks on Route 9 and reminisce about Lit on Trial and ask for guidance, knowing they always have a champion and a supporter in Jeniene.”

For Jeniene, that support has been reciprocated over the years by St. Mark’s colleagues, students, and parents, especially during her battle with cancer. “There is nothing like this community to rally around you when you need them,” she shared, grateful to feel that care here, where she has been “the happiest in [her] professional career.”

Fortunately for St. Mark’s, Jeniene plans to stick around. Although she is retiring from teaching, she will “be here for this community” as a consultant to the School, utilizing her interpersonal strengths to listen, counsel, and continue to advocate for students.