Each year former CCV staffer and current faculty member Janice Couture’s extended family gathers for dinner in Vermont. This year, CCV crashed the party.
That’s because this year the Community College of Vermont decided to say thanks to Janice and her family for years of support. At the Friday night event, roughly 80 people – 51 of who were Coutures – witnessed the official naming ceremony of the Janice Couture Community Room at CCV Winooski.
“Many of you were here in this room for Janice’s retirement party, and something she said that day really struck me,” CCV President Joyce Judy told the crowd. “In her parting remarks, she said that her idea of heaven is having her colleagues, friends, and extended family all together in this room. Well, we are gathering today to honor Janice for her extraordinary leadership in broadening and strengthening our community and supporting our Endowment for Student Success.”
For her part, Janice Couture listened intently as Judy, Executive Director of Academic Centers Dee Steffan, Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Tim Donovan, and others lauded her contributions to the thriving community that has sprung up at the College’s Winooski facility. That’s the reason, they all said in their own way, it was particularly fitting that the largest gathering place in the Winooski academic center be named in her honor.
“I love that this room will bear her name, I love thinking that when we have celebrations and special lectures and events and blood drives that there’s going to be a poster that directs people to the Janice Couture room,” Steffan said. “It’s going to be a reminder for us of her presence—whether she’s in the building or not—that will be here in spirit, and that makes me very happy.”
Couture’s direct connection to the College began back in 2001 when she accepted an academic coordinator position at CCV’s previous location on Pearl Street in Burlington. She remained in that role until June of 2012, advising students, supporting faculty, and helping to build a nurturing environment for staff, Judy said in her remarks. Couture also took up the mantle of faculty member during that time, and continues to teach one CCV class per semester. Her positive impact, many said that evening, could be felt college-wide.“Janice and her family have been so tremendously supportive of CCV,” said Executive Dean Susan Henry before the ceremony.
Back in 2010, Henry said, when the College was moving into its new Winooski academic center, Couture led an initiative to raise funds to sponsor a classroom to be named in honor of her parents, Alfred and Marguerite. She reached out to her family and surpassed her goal well before the deadline. Now, three years after she began her effort, support from Janice and the Couture family has more than doubled the initial goal.
It was during this three year period that CCV came to know the close ties the entire extended Couture family has had with the College, dating back many decades. Numerous Coutures have studied at CCV, many have taught classes at the centers around the state, and extended family member Betty Dye also served as an academic coordinator for more than a decade. Essentially, as Henry put it, the Couture family is part of the CCV family.
“When you look at the numbers, every single one of my siblings has a connection to CCV,” Couture said during the event. “It could be their grandchild who attended classes here, or it could have been them, so there’s a lot of physical connection, but then there’s almost like a spiritual connection to the ideas and mission.”
The idea and mission of CCV, as a welcoming learning environment where people from all walks of life can attend classes and better themselves, has thrived with the help of folks such as the Couture family, Judy said. That support has allowed hundreds of students to attend classes in the Alfred V. and Marguerite M. Couture Family Memorial Classroom, and it will allow thousands to attend future events in the newly named Janice Couture Community Room. And that’s really what Friday’s ceremony and celebration was about.
“This is a way to celebrate Janice and your remarkable family and for CCV to say thank you for your engagement with this college on so many levels,” Judy said before unveiling the new sign that will hang outside the room.
Given that even in retirement Couture continues to teach at CCV, and her openness about what makes the College so important and special, there seems to be little chance that engagement will diminish anytime soon.
“This is a place where people are accepted, they’re cared for, they’re empowered, and this is kind of my personal life’s mission, to care for people, to try to empower them, respect them, show them reverence,” Couture said. “And that’s what CCV does, and that’s what caught my heart.”