July 28, 2021

Jane Ollendorff Joins CIP Advisory Board

CIP is excited to announce the addition of Jane Ollendorff to our Advisory Board.  As the daughter-in-law of the founder of CIP, Jane's history with CIP and the Council of International Fellowship (CIF) has been untraditional, but thoroughly immersive.

It was purely by coincidence that Jane would end up making the perfect future daughter-in-law to Henry and Martha Ollendorff to carry on the mantle (and family name) for them in representing the family at CIF conferences and meetings.  CIF is a CIP alumni group of social workers in more than 30 countries, and it just so happened that Jane had found her way into the social work field in a winding and unconventional way right around the time she joined the family. 

After high school, Jane became a nurse after a three-year diploma program.  It was years later in her 30s when she returned to school to obtain her bachelor's degree that she learned about a full-tuition grant for nurses to get Master's degrees in social work from Washington University in St. Louis.  Psychology classes that she took for her bachelor's degree introduced Jane to her passion for social work, and this program presented the perfect opportunity to pursue it.  "I felt like the luckiest person in the world!  I just had to buy my books and walk to class from my house two blocks away, everything else was taken care of."  

Jane graduated in 1980 and married Frank Ollendorff three years later in 1983.  Just a few months later, Martha Ollendorff, Frank's mother, insisted that Jane accompany her to what would be her first CIF International Conference in Oslo, Norway.  "She was very insistent that I should go with her!  She said, 'I need a companion, you're a social worker, I'm buying your ticket.'  It was not a decision on my part!"

Jane's first conference was also her first experience getting to know about her late father-in-law, Henry Ollendorff, who passed away before she was able to meet him.  The attendees of the conference, while extremely close with Henry and Martha, had never met Jane before.  After seeing Jane's name tag bearing her new surname and that she was traveling with Martha, most assumed she was Henry and Martha's daughter.  It being the first conference after Henry's death, emotions were running high among those in attendance. 

"People were coming up to me and grabbing my hand with tears in their eyes and saying 'Your father was my best friend.'  I kid you not, it was many people using the same words.  I corrected a few, but soon realized they needed to grieve and I just accepted what they had to say.  How could someone be everybody's best friend?  That gave me a tiny inclination as to what it was like to be around Henry."

Jane became a social worker at the age of 40 and began a position in the employee assistance program field.  "It's a very American way of delivering mental health services, it's all handled now by insurance companies, which is much different from other countries around the world."  Becoming involved in CIF gave Jane a unique way to bring exchanges to the field that she had never seen a way to do before.  

"When I explained the employee assistance program, it was really foreign to a lot of participants from other countries.  What was truly foreign for most of them was the idea of a for-profit mental health service."  Jane and a professor from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland went on tours of a few existing workplace-based mental health services in the Netherlands or Germany when traveling for the conferences, exploring the systems of mental health delivery there. 

CIF Conference in France, 2019Jane has attended every CIF conference since that first one with Martha in Oslo and has made many close international friends along the way.  Martha continued to attend into her 90s and then Jane either attended with Frank or by herself.  As an impartial, yet devoted, member of CIF, Jane has been entrusted with the responsibility of running the Executive Committee elections for CIF.  "Every two years I lead a small committee.  We recruit the nominees and qualify them and make the election happen, including the voting at the [CIF] Board of Directors meeting.  There are 30 or 31 people who vote, and they vote on behalf of their country and which candidates they want to see become the leaders of the Executive Committee.  It is all voluntary, they have been doing a great job and it's amazing to me how people have stepped up and have been leading the global evolution of CIF."

COVID-19 has presented some new and complicated challenges for Jane and the committee this time around, but they are committed to continue providing access to a fair and anonymous system for voting.  "This is the first time we are putting on a virtual election, and it is a huge challenge.  We are doing our best to use the latest technology called "Choice Voting."  We have been working hard to set that up so that people can do their voting anonymously.  Elections are important in this international group because in so many countries it is really a privilege to vote.  Not everyone is able to vote in an anonymous way, so this system of democracy is something we really try to practice."

Dedication of Ollendorff Platz in Germany, 2010As for her history with CIP, Jane and her husband Frank spent a great deal of time and effort working with our current President Lisa Purdy and past Executive Director Dorothy Faller to archive historical records through the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland.  "We spent time with Lisa going through all the archives before the office moved [from downtown Cleveland]."  CIP's rich, early history and how it got started, what people did to get involved, and the great impact the program has had to this day are all documented thanks to Jane's contributions to this cause.

As a new member of our Advisory Board, Jane would like to see the relationship between CIP and CIF grow.  "I want people to see and feel the connection between CIP and CIF."  Additionally, Jane's ideas for CIP include exploring St. Louis as a site for programming on human rights.  Unrest in nearby Ferguson following the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in 2014 has made the city a hot spot for activism and public discourse, a potential topic of interest for exchange groups hosted by CIP.

In thinking about the early participants, personally selected by Henry that came through CIP, Jane reflects, "They came on ships and were met in New York by Henry and CIP host volunteers.  There was such appreciation; they felt so special to have this unique cross-cultural experience in their lives.  That energy from CIP participants continues to fuel the CIF Branches around the world.  There's a lot of worry from the older people about what will happen when that energy has all died, when we are all gone, but there are many people involved now who never met Henry and still have that spirit going.  He somehow had a real formula for how to be successful in this venture.  I know times have changed and things are different in the world now and the programs have to reflect that.  I am so impressed by what you all have done at CIP."

We are equally impressed by you, Jane, and are thrilled to have you join our Advisory Board!
Posted by Melissa Zwick on July 28, 2021 at 3:59 PM in CIPUSA Permalink
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