“I would rather be part of a team than be solo.”
Jill believes that rowing is a metaphor for life – “Everyone is doing the same thing so no one person is more important than anyone else.” This belief serves as a guide to her way of being and interacting in the world, as well as to her leadership.
Jill came to South Bend to go to college and was in one of the first coed classes at the University of Notre Dame. Other than a few years spent in Illinois working on an archaeological dig, Jill has called South Bend home, “I like South Bend very much, it fit me very well.” Jill’s return to South Bend was facilitated when “rowing called me.” She came back here to coach at Notre Dame, which “taught me a lot about motivating people and organizing things. Life lessons were invaluable to me.” As much as she loved coaching, “it didn’t pay the bills,” so Jill went back to school at Indiana University South Bend where she earned a degree in computer science. She spent her career working in Institutional Technology for 35 years. Even though she contemplated moving at various points when offered a different position, she noted that “there was always something else to keep me here.”
Upon her retirement, Jill took advantage of having the luxury of time to be out in nature – rowing, golfing, cycling. During a bike tour in Bisbee, Arizona with her friend Karen Haun, Jill met a local coffee roaster. After touring his facility, they decided, in 2013, to open Bendix Coffee in South Bend. In 2016, Jill left the business to pursue other opportunities.
As a lover of the outdoors, Jill realized she wanted to spend the next phase of her life doing something that would keep her outdoors while also allowing her to give back to the community. Jill’s goal was “to return to my roots with rowing.” While looking around for the right thing Jill learned that the University of Notre Dame was vacating their boat house, and “thought what a great opportunity to start community rowing.” She worked with the Notre Dame rowing coach to help establish a rowing club. Jill has recently earned her Level 2 coaching certification and continues to help grow the organization. For the first time last year, the team traveled to Chicago to participate in a rowing competition. This year they are traveling to participate in even more events. They also host a Survivors’ Row as a form of empowerment. This year’s Survivors’ Row focused on breast cancer. Instead of merely raising funds for a cause, the event centers on empowering survivors and encouraging them by saying, “you can do this even though your confidence has been shaken.” In the future, she hopes to add a youth program to the club’s offerings.
Jill is also a musician and a “huge advocate of music as a lifestyle choice.” She is a former member of the Michiana Community band and a current member of the Benton Harbor band. A member of the Niles Park Commission, Jill is working to help answer the question: “What does green space mean to a community?” Jill asserts that we all “need green space, common space that is available to everyone.” Her hope throughout all her endeavors is to leave the community better than she found it.
Information compiled from oral history collected by Michiana Women Leaders, Inc.
Jill was a 2019 Celebrating Michiana Women Leaders honoree.