The campus community continues to mourn the loss of President Pamela Jolicoeur who passed away on June 9, 2010, from a stroke. Students, staff and faculty members are taking their time grieving over her leadership and genuineness. Jolicoeur’s memory is kept alive by reminiscing about her life and the humungous impact she had on the college. While everyone misses her, the college will continue to follow the vision she spent her six years here developing for years to come.
Mark Krejci, provost and dean of the college, said Jolicoeur was a great asset of the college.
“She was an inspirational leader that did it by coming in to this campus, getting to know Concordia, asking great questions,” he said. “And as a result, getting us to think about things in a fresh way and leading us towards a consensus of where do we go from here.”
The Cobber community is global, according to Krejci, and when something happens, people normally get together in chapel to pray. Since Jolicoeur passed during the summer, the college still wanted to create a chapel environment for students, which is how they got the idea to do a prayer service on campus. Since there are Cobbers all over the nation and the world, it was decided to stream a live feed of the memorial service online.
Krejci said Jolicoeur was a genuine person who will be deeply missed.
“She had a genuineness that was so real and a great sense of empathy,” he said. “She just saw herself as Pam Jolicoeur; she didn’t get herself in the hierarchy thing.”
Upon hearing the news of her passing, Krejci was shocked.
“Shocked is the word,” he said. “And grief. It was a one-two punch. We were hit with an unbelieving reality and then also immediately filled with the deepest grief. No matter how much you spoke with her, there’s a common respect for her and a deep appreciation for what she did for Concordia College.”
Corey Olson, a 2010 graduate, said that even though he didn’t officially meet Jolicoeur until graduation last May, he felt like he knew her.
“She was the only woman who has made me want to dedicate my life to my vocation,” he said. “I am going to work hard, not only for myself, and to help others, but to put a smile on her face, wherever she may be. She will be missed.”
Bruce Vieweg, chief information officer & associate provost, said he came to Concordia for two reasons: the mission of the college and Pam Jolicoeur. They had a lot in common, including being strategic, passionate thinkers interested in change.
“The college will always be different without Pam for me,” he said. “And I shall miss her. I do miss her. At the same time, I have come to just have enormous respect for Dr. Dovre. He has stepped up and taken the mantle once again and it is a blessing for the college that he did that.”
This will be a difficult time for the campus community, according to Vieweg.
“She was a leader and a friend and a colleague and all of those things,” he said. “I just think it will be a touchy subject for a really long time.”
Vieweg said Jolicoeur’s passing was such a shock because she was petite, she watched her diet and she exercised.
“The spirit of Concordia is alive and well and will continue,” he said. “No doubt in my mind about it. The biggest challenge is where do you find a president who can follow such an amazing leader? It’s a challenging search but I’m excited about it.”
Tracey Moorhead, assistant to the president, said Jolicoeur’s leadership style was extraordinary.
“It was collaborative and at the same time incredibly strong,” she said. “She invited and welcomed input but wasn’t afraid to make tough decisions. This job was one that she had worked toward her entire career and she just embraced it with such excitement and enthusiasm. You don’t very often find that over expression of enthusiasm.”
Jolicoeur had a vision for the college to enhance its reputation, and they worked on a daily basis to achieve that vision.
“She was working so carefully on what makes Concordia special and what does Concordia have that people will come to Moorhead, Minnesota, specifically to get,” Moorhead said. “That was her vision for the School of Business.”
Something difficult for the college during the grieving process includes how every person is affected in a different way and they’re all at different stages.
“Everyone had their own special relationship with her,” Moorhead said. “That’s an unusual characteristic in anybody.”
Kris Braaten, a 2009 graduate, knew Jolicoeur best by her nickname, Pammy J.
“It was how 99% of the Cobber community preferred to refer to her, but rarely to her face because you had too much respect to call her anything but Dr. Jolicoeur in person,” he said.
Braaten also recognized the leadership Jolicoeur embodied, as well as her kindness.
“When she spoke to you, you always knew she heard what you said and had great respect for the individual that you were,” he said. “You could pass her on the sidewalk on your way to class and she’d always smile and say hi to you, all the while you knew she had a million ‘Cobber Issues’ swirling through her brain as she worked to better our community and launch us into the future with all the tools and knowledge required to be successful.”
Braaten said that as a freshman, meeting Jolicoeur was almost like meeting royalty. He was a member of the Homecoming Committee for a few years, and even though he didn’t know Jolicoeur personally, her passing had a surprising effect on him.
“Her leadership at Concordia was so meaningful and had such a huge impact on my life that it is clear why I felt like I did when hearing the news of her sudden passing,” he said. “I know I was not the only one who felt that way just by attending her memorial service last June. I, along with thousands of other alumni and current students, did not hesitate to travel great distances to pay respect to our beloved president.”
Linda Brown, treasurer and vice president for finance, said it didn’t seem real when she heard about the passing of Jolicoeur.
“Pam made a tremendous impact in a short period of time,” she said. “She challenged us to go even further and she opened up our own vision. Part of it was being a person from the outside, telling us we’re better than we think we are. She was extraordinarily refreshing.”
Brown said good things were happening for the college and there was a good momentum going.
“We weren’t done,” she said. “We weren’t ready to be done with her yet.”
Brown said being a president isn’t an easy task in the best of times, but Jolicoeur worked hard on behalf of this place.
“We miss her good spirit and we miss her enthusiasm for the future, the vision for the potential,” she said. “We were on paths and we are determined to stay on those paths.”
It wasn’t until school started that it set in for Brown that Jolicoeur wasn’t just on vacation.
“I still can’t quite believe she’s gone,” she said. “I see the dark office and I think she’s on vacation or in Minneapolis for meetings. When we all came back as a campus community, that really hit for me that this wasn’t temporary.”
I’m a senior at Concordia graduating in May with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. Journalism is my life and my passion, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.