Bear Pause: Jan and Lee Woolman

Jan and Lee Woolman retired from Blake in June 2008 and have enjoyed traveling, volunteering, film festivals and various other cultural events—but they especially love interacting with their four grandchildren, who live in Minneapolis and Massachusetts. Pre-pandemic, Lee enjoyed weekly mahjong games and his writing group. (He has published a few articles.) Jan biked regularly with friends and has taught history courses for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the history speakers program at the Roseville Library. The couple now stream films and series, do jigsaw puzzles and play online bridge with fellow former Blake teacher Kay Solon and her husband, who live in Austin, Texas. 

Jan Woolman, former Upper School social studies teacher

Q: What is your earliest childhood memory?
A: This is not my earliest memory, but my favorite. Driving 14 miles of dark country roads back to my hometown in central Illinois after dinners with my grandparents, I remember the glow of the radio tuned to a baseball game, the bright spots of farm lights spread out across the prairie and—because I knew most of the families on those farms—feeling secure and connected.

Q: If you had one extra hour of free time a day, how would you spend it?
A: I would read or take a walk.

Q: When was the last time you were nervous?
A: I recently taught a four-session online course on the women’s suffrage movement. I cannot remember any recent experience that was quite as nerve-racking.

Q: If you could visit any place in the world, where would you choose to go and why?
A: Hemingway said that if you spend time in Paris when you are young, it stays with you—so even though I’ve been there many times, it remains my favorite place to visit.

Q: What teacher inspired you the most? How?
A: Not surprising, my high school social studies teacher inspired me the most. I was delighted to be able to share this with him at my 55th high school reunion in 2019.

Q: What's your favorite family tradition?
A: Since my daughter was a toddler, my family has gone to the Minnesota Zoo the morning of Christmas Eve. It’s always been a nice quiet time before the flurry of the holiday.

Q: What did you want to be when you were small?
A: From the age of 10, I wanted to be a history teacher, and I’m happy I got to do what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Q: What is the best gift you have been given?
A: Lee gave me an outdoor fountain for our 25th anniversary. He had it designed to resemble a hosta plant, so it fits well in our backyard.

Q: What’s the most fun you’ve had this week?
A: Watching my 7-year-old twin grandchildren play with their two guinea pigs on FaceTime. It’s hard to decide which pair is cuter.

Q: If you could have an endless supply of any food, what would you get?
A: Root vegetables from the Minneapolis Farmers Market

Lee Woolman, former Upper School English teacher

Q: What's your favorite family tradition?
A: I have made and decorated all the birthday cakes for my local grandson, from a pirate ship to a castle with dragons.

Q: What is one thing you will never do again?

A: Jump out of a second story window. I did that as a freshman in college when some of us pledges played jokes on fraternity brothers. Escaping one annoyed victim, I ran down a dorm hallway that, unfortunately, had no exit but a window.

Q: What’s your greatest failure and how did you overcome it?

A: I wish I had asked my parents hundreds of questions about their childhoods in the 1920s and the Depression. It’s a regret I live with.

Q: What teacher inspired you the most? How?

A: Mrs. Cooper, my high school Latin teacher. She was an amazing combination of rigorous taskmaster and joyful cheerleader.

Q: If you could have the answer to any question, what would it be?

A: What is the one hundred percent guaranteed best way to peel a hard boiled egg?

Q: When was the last time you were nervous?
A: Riding my bike for the first time after seven weeks of mending a torn Achilles’ tendon.

Q: When you were little, who was your favorite superhero and why?
A: I was a faithful fan of Superman comic books. The ability of a person to fly effortlessly seems so liberating.

Q: What’s your dream job?

A: Building log cabins

Q: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

A: Cow tongue

Q: Tell us about a unique or quirky habit of yours.

A: My commitment to ironing cloth napkins