Former trustee Janice H. Wilkins, a groundbreaking attorney and public servant, died Saturday, July 14, at the age of 96, in Needham, Mass. She was formerly a resident of East Walpole, Mass.; Westwood, Mass.; and New York City.
Janice was born in Brewer, Maine, to Ralph and Florence Wilkins. The family moved to East Walpole in 1923, where Janice graduated from high school. She earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts and sciences from Colby Junior College, a bachelor’s degree in history and government from the University of Maine and a law degree from Boston University.
Janice was admitted to the bar in 1947 and was an intellectual property lawyer for Walpole’s Kendall Corporation. In 1953, at age 30, she was the first woman to run for and be elected a selectman in the town (and one of the first in the state). She served 10 terms and was involved with Walpole’s Salvation Army Fund and Girl Scouts Council. Janice also wrote the articles of incorporation for the town’s first Little League.
In 1963, Janice moved to New York City to take a position in trademark law with the American Cyanamid Corporation. She then joined the Olin Corporation, and through its subsidiary, Squibb, turned her focus to international trade law before returning to Massachusetts and the Kendall Company as head of its trademark department, where she worked until her retirement at age 80.
Throughout her career and beyond, Janice was a dedicated member the Colby-Sawyer community. She wrote the initial bylaws for Colby Junior’s Alumnae Association and later joined its Board of Directors (1955-1976). She was elected to the college’s Board of Trustees and served from 1976 to 1985. In 1992, she was presented with the distinguished Alumni Award and in 2010 with the Susan Colgate Cleveland Medal for Distinguished Service.
“Janice epitomizes the power of the Colby-Sawyer experience that encourages the growth of strong leaders and lifelong relationships,” said President Susan D. Stuebner. “The bonds she formed with her alma mater and fellow alumni along her phenomenal life’s journey are an inspiration, and we are thankful for her many contributions to the life of the college.”
In 2002, Janice contributed a major gift and bequest to the college’s capital campaign. In announcing Janice’s intentions on her friend’s behalf, then-trustee Ellie Morrison Goldthwait ’51, ’52 said, “Janice is a woman who applied her liberal education as we define it here at Colby-Sawyer. She discovered her talents, she developed her abilities and adapted to change. It is my privilege and great pleasure to announce that Janice has contributed a $1 million gift, in addition to $25,000 per year for five years, and bequeathed one-half of her estate to Colby-Sawyer’s unrestricted endowment fund.”
“When I asked Janice what she’d like me to say about her, she said that she has no family left, but considers Colby-Sawyer her family,” Ellie continued. “In making this gift, Janice hopes to pass on the values she learned here to future generations of Colby-Sawyer students. These values are excellence, responsibility, community and connectedness.”
The Class of 1941 yearbook described Janice as “dependable, reserved and fun to know.” It also noted that she was an “ardent news follower” who would “hold open house any election night.” Indeed, she was nicknamed “Wilkie” after presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie, who ran against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. Janice’s interest in politics and world affairs led her to her involvement with the International Relations Club; she served as president in 1941.
Janice and her classmates returned in force for reunions on campus. Although reunion classes were assigned to sleep in Colgate Hall, one year she and several other Page Hall alumnae slipped out late at night and snuck into Page to sleep “in their own beds.”
In her final years, Janice was a resident of Fox Hill Village in Westwood, Mass. She will be remembered by her many friends, neighbors, colleagues and the caregivers at Fox Hill not only for her kindness, sense of humor and lively mind, but also for her command of a vast array of topics connected to history, current events, sports, politics and literature.
A funeral service will be held at noon at the George F. Doherty & Sons Funeral Home, 477 Washington St., (Rt.16) Wellesley, Mass., on Wednesday, July 18. Interment will follow in the family plot in the North Beverly Cemetery in Beverly. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Janice’s memory to The Colby-Sawyer Fund.