Jean Dungan Van Buskirk

Jean Dungan Van Buskirk, 1952

B.A., Denison University
Retired Director
Sister Cities Program of Baltimore

Citation awarded June, 2012

Life’s changes have brought us to a move after 47 years in the same house to a lively intergenerational apartment. While sorting through papers I found many memories which included those special Denison years. Born in a nurturing small town of Troy, Ohio, the daughter of Ruth and Cameron Dungan, my sister and I graduated from Troy High School. My special years at Denison University introduced me to many opportunities, a challenging education and lifelong friends. After graduation my first real job was assistant buyer of junior sportswear at Halle Brothers in Cleveland, Ohio, where I met my husband, George. Following the birth of our three daughters, Laurie, Margot, and Barbie, we moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where we have lived except for three years in Brussels, Belgium.

Throughout my life I discovered one of my greatest joys is creating new programs that build bridges between diverse individuals, organizations, and leaders in the community. My favorites were the first Haunted House, a volunteer program for Planned Parenthood, a neighborhood food co-op, and a Volunteer Bureau for the City of Baltimore. Recently we built an Inner City Community Playground with the help of over 4000 volunteers across multiple Baltimore neighborhoods. The opportunity to work together toward a common goal transcended whatever differences existed between them.

While living in Belgium I found the opportunity to assimilate into new cultures and embrace other customs. My involvement in the Belgian-American Society and other organizations provided opportunities to build networks between Americans abroad and the Belgian communities. Upon returning to Baltimore, I was requested by Mayor William Donald Schaefer to become Director of the Baltimore Sister Cities Program and later Director of the Maryland Sister States Program when he became Governor. This network of 800 volunteers facilitated international exchanges in business, culture, education, environment, sports and medicine and proudly received eleven Sister Cities International awards.

Throughout the years, our lives have been enriched in many dimensions by our three daughters and six grandchildren who continue to bring us pride and joy in addition to keeping us young in spirit.

I am thankful for the strong foundation that Denison provided for my life and am humbled by this Alumni Citation.