April 23, 2020
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To celebrate 50 years of coeducation at Kenyon, we’re profiling 50 Kenyon alumnae during the 2019-20 academic year. These 50 women, merely a small sample of the thousands of female graduates who have earned Kenyon degrees since 1969, will discuss their undergraduate experiences and how their education in Gambier prepared them for their lives and careers.
The fifth alumna in our series is Jan Guifarro ’73, who recently retired as the vice president of corporate communications at the Colgate-Palmolive Company. A resident of New York City, Guifarro was an English major at Kenyon and has served on the Kenyon Fund Executive Committee.
How do you prioritize your life and get things done?
I've always been a very organized person, and am a list-making, checking-off-the-tasks aficionado (witnessed by my love of completing crossword puzzles). However, I do believe strongly in leaving yourself open to the possibilities that are presented to you. Planning is good — but perhaps not too much. If I had carefully planned out my life, I might not have taken the chance to join the Peace Corps after Kenyon, work in various jobs, including with Cuban refugees, and then end up with a business career in communications — a career I didn’t know existed when I was studying.
Who at Kenyon inspired you?
I would have to say that being at Kenyon when it first went co-ed was an overall inspiring experience — I can’t put down one name to call out. The entire campus experience, including classes, theater, social events — and most importantly, fellow students both male and female — were all sources of inspiration. Being on campus — able to study, consider, discuss and debate a wide variety of subjects, both topical and historic, created a basis for moving forward.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
Over my career, I’ve received a lot of advice, including to be careful of your sense of humor — not everyone finds funny what you do! But probably the best came the first time I was in a people management position, and I was counseled to carefully consider before speaking or acting. Your staff and those around you are constantly watching you — for guidance, signals and mentoring — and you need to be conscious of your actions.
How has your worldview evolved since leaving Kenyon?
In the time since I left Kenyon, I’ve lived in Latin America for several years; worked in several businesses, concluding with 27 years at Colgate-Palmolive; raised a child (and am now the proud grandmother of three boys); attended a multitude of concerts, plays and art exhibits; and read, read, read hundreds of books. Life basically is an evolution, day after day — learning, experiencing, working, interacting with others. One of my best continuing Kenyon experiences is meeting other Kenyon alumni who graduated after me (which would be just about everyone!). There is an instant connection because of the shared experience — an experience that can provide the backbone to support life experiences beyond the Hill.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Read about the previous woman in our series: Bi Vuong ’03
Read about the next woman in our series: Lydia Winkler ’13