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Jane Ellen Carstens – Elementary Education, 1942; Education Faculty Member, 1942 – 1994

Jane Ellen Carstens

1942 – Elementary Education

I, Jane Ellen Carstens, graduated from SLI in 1942 with a B.A. in Elementary Education.  As early as eighth grade, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher; so there was no question in my mind as to what I would do following graduation from New Iberia High School.  I had received scholarships to Northwestern  (known as “the Normal ” at that time) and to SLI.  Because my father could not afford to send me to the former, I opted for the latter.  Little did I know that my “second choice” school would be such a vital part of my life for 56 years!

From the moment I entered the campus, I began to experience a whole new life, both academically and socially.  Living in Buchanan Hall, where Miss Rita Soulier was the housemother, provided a structure which would help me through those four years of college life.  Here was a wonderful opportunity to meet young women from other parts of Louisiana, a few from other states, and in no time I had a circle of new friends, many of whom are still close friends today.

It was my privilege to have classes with many fine teachers, some of whom had a marked effect upon my life.  Miss Anne Delie Bancroft was not only my English teacher,  (a marvelous one) but she was also faculty advisor to my sorority Delta Theta Sigma.  She was a delight in both roles.  Two amusing things come to mind: (l) She was ambidextrous, and would begin writing something on the board with her right hand and finish it with her left.  She was quite tall, and when she stood before the class, she would hook the heel of her shoe in the chalk tray of the blackboard.  Dr. Mary Dichmann, a newcomer to the SLI English faculty, helped me to gain an appreciation for British literature.  I remember memorizing the Prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (the first line of which I still remember) for extra points.  Doctors Harry Delarue and Joseph Riehl made history come alive.   Both had had personal career experiences which enriched their teaching of this subject.  Minnie Kelley created an interest on my part in the geography of Latin America.  She, too, spoke from a rich background of research and experience.   I have Olive Gehring to thank for my interest in and pursuit of a career in librarianship.  I worked under her as a college student in the library at FM Hamilton Laboratory School on the SLI campus for three years, and was  thrilled to be offered the job of Assistant Librarian there when  I graduated.   Miss Gehring challenged me with her trust and confidence that I had something to offer the children and faculty at Hamilton, as well as the college students when I began teaching Library Science.  She inspired me to go on to get my Masters and Doctorate degrees in Library Science at Columbia.

I cannot talk about SLI/USL faculty without mentioning President Joel Fletcher, who came to that office while I was a student and continued in that role into the late 1960’s.  The student enrollment at SLI/USL was relatively small during his presidency, and he was able to make personal contact with many students.  The same thing was true of his relation to the faculty.  I always believed that he had a genuine interest in and concern for the faculty, and he demonstrated this in many concrete ways.  Mrs. Fletcher was just as approachable, a very warm, caring human being.

            With all honesty, I can say that I loved every day of my time at this University–both as a student and later as a faculty member.  My days with the children and faculty at F.M. Hamilton were wonderful, and I could not have been happier than I was when teaching Library Science to hundreds of students at U.S.L.  I had several opportunities to enrich my background as teacher and librarian at several other universities, and working in the Children’s Room of the New York Public Library.  Although I enjoyed each of these experiences, I was always ready to return to U.S.L., which  was and still is “the love of my life,” even though I retired from the University in 1994 after 56 years.