Ready with a helping hand

By Kyle Hobstetter on July 22, 2019

Towson University’s Jayne French becomes the first person to win two University System of Maryland Board of Regents Awards

Jayne French, winner of USM's Board of Regents Staff Award
Towson University's Jayne French, who works as an executive administrative assistant in Student Affairs, won the University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents Staff Award in the Category of Inclusion, Multiculturalism and Diversity.

Towson University’s Jayne French admits that she has a hard time saying no. That’s because she loves helping people.

Because of that attitude, French has been awarded the University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents Staff Award in the Category of Inclusion, Multiculturalism and Diversity category.

During her time at Towson University she’s been part of plenty of committees and panels. She has been part of TU’s Staff Council, Smoking Citation Review Panel, Police and Community Relation Council, Board of Regents Staff Awards committee and Student Tech and Web committee. 

Off-campus, she crochets hats, scarfs and mittens for various non-profit agencies, and volunteers for the Special Olympics of Maryland, National Alliance on Mental Illness Baltimore (NAMI Metro Baltimore), Domestic Violence Victims, and the national Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which she is currently serving as Vice President for the Board of Baltimore County African American Cultural Festival. 

It was her continuing work both on- and off-campus that led to the University Store’s Deniz Erman starting the nomination process for French.

“Jayne is an inspiration,” Erman writes in her nomination letter. “It amazes me how she finds the time to do all that she does, free of complaint and unconcerned of recognition. She selflessly helps family, friends and strangers.”

This isn’t the first time that French has been honored by the USM. During the 2013-14 academic term, French won her first Board of Regents Staff Award in the Extraordinary public service to the University or greater community category.

With her win this summer, French is now the first person to ever win two USM Board of Regents Staff Awards. And while the awards and recognition are nice, it isn’t the reason she always says yes to volunteer.

“It’s because I want to help people,” French says. “This has been very humbling because I always have believed, and it’s how I’ve been raised, that volunteering isn’t about awards…it’s about helping people. So (when they said I won) I was shocked, surprised and excited.”

When asked how long she’s been at Towson University, she knows the exact date — February 25, 2002. In that time, she’s worked as an administrative assistant in the Anthropology and Sociology Department, in the Provost Office and with the Library

She is currently the executive administrative assistant for Student Affairs and the Center for Student Diversity (CSD)

And while some are constantly trying to move up the ladder, French is happy with her position. Instead of dealing with paper work she gets to help not only the community, but also the students who come into the CSD office. 

Her colleagues point out that students stop by just for a hug from French. And when she is not in the office, students would sometime sit by her desk just so they won’t miss her as much. They even follow her when she switches offices — she now works in the Administration Building after spending several years in the University Union.

“It makes me feel very humbled that they still come looking for me at my age,” she says. “Students know that I’m very upfront and straight with them and they know that while I respect the rules, because I’m a very strict rules follower, I will make sure to help them if I can.” 

Jayne French graduating in 2016
French graduated from Towson University in 2016 with a degree in geography and environmental planning. 

And in 2016, French added another connection to Towson University — she became a proud TU alumna by graduating with a bachelor’s degree in geography and environmental planning. 

She went to college when she was younger, but got burnt out after going to school and working full-time. So, after her two children graduated with their college degrees, the urge to come back got stronger. After a conversation with former Towson University President Maravene Loeschke, French finally enrolled.

As she was getting ready to graduate, French planned on skipping the Commencement ceremony. But a Special Olympics family wasn’t going to let that happen. Not only did they pay for French’s graduation fees, they were also in attendance when she walked across the stage. 

It was the perfect combination of her Towson University career and her volunteer work.

“They came and cheered me on, and it was so amazing,” French laughs. “I’ve worked at so many graduations that everyone already knew me there. They came up to me and told me that I talked through my whole graduation. I told them I know because it was so exciting!”

With her win, French will receive a $2,000 stipend and a plaque in recognition of the award. She will formally be presented the award at the Board of Regents September meeting.