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News > Remembering JAGS alumnae > Remembering Jenni Holman

Remembering Jenni Holman

It is with great sadness that we learnt of Jenni Holman's passing in late December. Jenni worked at JAGS for almost 40 years and she was an integral part of our community.

Jenni at Pam Mico's leaving party in 1996
Jenni at Pam Mico's leaving party in 1996

Jenni joined JAGS in 1972 as a teacher at our Junior School and remained an important part of JAGS beyond her official retirement in 2008.  In 1979 she became Head of the Junior School and oversaw the opening of the new lower school, now our Pre-Prep. Jenni then joined the Senior School as Head of Fourth in 1991, as well as teaching History of Art, progressing to Head of Department.  Even after Jenni retired in 2011, she was a frequent visitor to the school attending lunches and events, especially those relating to History of Art.  

 

Opening Day at the Pre-Prep, September 1990. 

Jenni embodied the JAGS ethos with her enthusiasm of learning for students of all ages. Her legacy lives on as the Pre-Prep School continues to thrive and History of Art remains an important part of the JAGS curriculum. We are extremely grateful for all that Jenni contributed to life at JAGS during and post her time at the school.  

Jenni is fondly remembered by many members of our community, and we are pleased to share some thoughts and memories from them below.  

If you would like to share any memories to be added here, or to pass on a message to Jenni’s family, please contact us via marketing@jags.org.uk.  

Jenni Holman in July 1994 with Barbara Bates, Pat Brafield, Chris Kent, Val Mulcahy, Jackie Pain and Pam Michell.

Marion Gibbs, Headmistress of JAGS 1994 – 2015 

Jenni was appointed to JAGS by Miss Prissian in 1972 as a Form III teacher in the Junior School. She had recently returned from living in the Caribbean. Jenni’s exceptional qualities were quickly appreciated by Miss Prissian, who soon promoted her to be Head of the Junior School. She was an inspirational Head there, providing kind, firm, but gentle and good-humoured leadership to a very happy staff.  As part of a reorganisation in 1991, the next Headmistress, Mrs Davies, moved Jenni into the Senior School as Head of Fourth Forms (later Head of Years 7-9). Jenni was well established in this post, and as a member of the senior management team, when I joined JAGS as Headmistress in 1994. 

As well as her management role in the Senior School, Jenni also taught A level History of Art and ran the Year 7 (Lower 4) Civilisation Carousel. Her section of this carousel involved a series of talks and visits to Dulwich Picture Gallery (on foot) and to the major London art galleries (by coach). She organised these meticulously and implanted a lifelong love of and appreciation for art in many a young mind. Her older students also benefitted from Art History trips abroad to Paris, Italy and New York. For staff, she arranged regular early evening private views of exhibitions at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, continuing to do so long after her retirement. Jenni also instigated an Annual JAGS History of Art lecture at Dulwich Picture Gallery for parents, staff and friends of JAGS. These attracted high quality expert speakers and were much enjoyed by all who attended. 

As Head of Years 7-9 (Fourth Forms), Jenni dealt calmly, patiently and efficiently over the years with the problems, be they large or small, of thousands of young pupils.   She was also in charge of the organisation of our 11+ entrance examinations, making sure that the experience was not a daunting one for those who came to take part.  She was part of a small team who personally interviewed as many of the candidates as possible during the Autumn Term, to help them feel more at ease when they came to the January examination day.  Jenni used her wisdom and experience to run the team of Year 7-9 form tutors and she led regular, thoughtful section assemblies for the pupils. Her wonderfully neat and distinctive handwriting was admired by many, but Jenni was not slow to adapt to the use of IT for administration and correspondence. 

In 2001, Jenni was appointed Senior Teacher, later re-titled Assistant Head. In this role, she had direct day-to-day responsibility for the teaching staff – not only providing cover arrangements, exam timetables and many other practical things, but also being on hand to comfort them in times of personal crisis and to listen to their anxieties and concerns. All this Jenni did with infinite patience, wisdom and understanding. She was an excellent listener, warm but resolute in character, and a true friend to many. Her organisational skills were impeccable. 

Sadly, Jenni’s planned official retirement in 2008 coincided with the sudden and unexpected death of her beloved husband, Ken.  She therefore continued at JAGS in a part-time role as Alumnae Assistant in our Development Office until 2011.  She also took on the role of organiser of the new JAGS Community Art Fairs, which brought together local artists, ex-students and staff to display their work for sale at JAGS for one weekend each November, with JAGS’ profits going to the fund for the Community Music Centre. 

Jenni was passionate about art and in her retirement she gradually collected a wonderful selection of highly colourful modern sculptures in a variety of media in her back garden.  She was also renowned for her excellent taste in jewellery, especially dangling earrings, and her beautiful velvet coat of many colours. 

Jenni was a huge support to me, both personally and professionally. We always kept in touch after our respective retirements, meeting for long lunches in London. Sadly, once lockdown began in spring 2020 we could no longer meet, but we spoke regularly on the phone.  Jenni had been increasingly unwell for some months and we then spoke to one another even more often. Her sister let me know that she was in intensive care again in December and telephoned to inform of her untimely death on 22 December.  She was a truly wonderful person, who made a real difference to countless people, and she will be much missed. 

*** 

Mrs Vicki Addey, Teacher at JAGS Junior School, 1982–1986 

It is with great sadness that I have heard that Jenni Holman has passed away. 

I came to JAGS Junior School in September 1982; this was my first job and I will always be extremely grateful to Jenni (along with Miss Prissian) for believing in me and giving me this chance to begin my career in such a fine school. 

I can remember on my first morning (I was the music teacher and so was sitting at the piano ready to play the hymn in Assembly), the school had gathered and Jenni was speaking; she was interrupted by a 5 year old, also on her first day in school, called Caroline, who suddenly announced that her glasses needed cleaning. 

Jenni quietly but reassuringly told Caroline that Mrs Bailey (her teacher) would sort out her glasses when they were back in the classroom. Jenni never put a child down, but maintained authority – she was adored by all of the pupils. 

As a Newly Qualified Teacher, Jenni guided me, but also gave me freedom to bring fresh ideas and youthful enthusiasm into the Junior School. She had a strong and well-established staff who were able to support an NQT. Times were changing rapidly and I remember that during one summer holiday I was given an early BBC computer to bring home and learn how it worked so that I could teach the girls a simple programming course the following academic year. 

JAGS Junior School was a very happy environment, with very happy pupils. Jenni created a strong team – so strong that we still meet annually (Covid permitting!), including Jenni – she will be sorely missed at our next reunion. 

These photos are off the Staff act at the Christmas Entertainment 1984; there was an Edwardian theme and we performed a version of “A Teacher’s Lot is Not a Happy One (Happy One)”. 

Finally, here is a photo of Jenni in the staffroom.

 

Thirty five years after leaving JAGS, I still receive Christmas cards from 5 of these colleagues, meet up with 2 of them regularly and stayed with another at her home in France only last year – what more can I say, other than Jenni has given me, and all the pupils and staff who were under her care, so much. 

She was a very special lady. 

*** 

Kate Firth, former JAGS pupil and current JAGS Art Teacher 

Jenni arrived at JAGS in 1972 and took over teaching Form 3 (now Year 6). I was incredibly lucky to be in her first form at JAGS. Jenni was an inspirational and transformative form teacher and I am indebted to her for a year that opened my eyes to so much, both academically and more significantly, the arts, her great passion. Jenni was modern and glamourous. She came to school on a moped, the first teacher to do so, and would arrive in class beautifully presented in Laura Ashley smocks with a high-necked blouse, coloured tights and Anello and Davide Character shoes in a range of beautiful colours. Her round, owlish glasses would twinkle and the day would start well. We had posters of Pre Raphaelite-paintings around the classroom, and art and ‘crafting’ was as important a part of the day as maths and English. Jenni wrote with a gothic/italic hand, flawless and awesome. She was keen to improve my illegible scrawl and would give me italic exercises to do at home in the hope that one day someone might be able to read what I had written. These lessons have stuck with me and I look at my handwriting now and see Jenni’s influence every time I put pen to paper. Jenni’s passion for art also shaped my future and her decision to include a painting I did, in a submission to the National Children’s art exhibition was successful and the piece exhibited in the Mall galleries. This was perhaps the only real achievement I had at school but as a result I knew that this was the path I would follow. When I returned to teach Art at JAGS many years later it was a joy to reconnect with her and we had several adventures on art-based school trips over the years, most memorably a day trip to Paris with the Sixth Form to see the Cezanne Pissarro exhibition at the Musee D’ Orsay. The exhibition was fabulous but the lunch in the restaurant was more memorable as we looked out over the Seine and shared stories. I shall miss Jenni but I am eternally grateful to the lifelong impact her teaching had on me as a child. 

*** 

Leigh Bailey, Year 1 Teacher at JAGS Junior School, 1981-1989 

What a boss to have! Jenni was kind, patient, thoughtful, unshockable and forever young. 
The girls loved her, the staff loved her, the parents loved her and consequently there was virtually no bad behaviour ever. The girls respected and wanted to please her always. 
Jenni took things in her stride. At the beginning of the year staff meeting, when the National Curriculum had just come out, she closed the giant file on her lap and said, “Well, I think we’re already doing all that aren’t we? Now, the Christmas play!” 
The trouble with working at JAGS under Jenni was that it spoilt you for every other job you ever had. It was a utopia in education, probably the only one. 

*** 

Olivia Horsfall Turner, JAGS student, Year of 1998. Quotation taken from To Read & So (alumnae magazine), Spring 2014.

‘If it hadn’t have been for Mrs Jenni Holman, my story may not have started. I must have been in Year 9 when she came up to me with the Cambridge University prospectus and said, ‘This is the course for you: Part I in History and Part II in History of Art.’ It was a long way off at that point, but she was absolutely right. I was at Clare College, Cambridge for four years and I felt as though I’d found my niche.’ 

***

Catharine Lane, former teacher at JAGS Prep School

I worked at JAGS Prep in the eightees, where I taught PE and very much appreciated Jenni's calm and dignified way of running the school. The atmosphere for the girls and staff alike was always encouraging, positive and reassuring. I remember well my first Open Day for prospective parents: after giving a short and informative presentation of the school, one parent asked how the staff dealt with discipline problems. Jenni paused, looked at her staff with a smile on her lips, and shrugged, saying that we just never had any!
I also remember her telling the staff about the new mixed Pre-Prep school, due to open that autumn. I popped into her office later that day and asked if she could put my son's name on the list. Jenni looked a little flumoxed, then quickly pulled a blank sheet of paper from her drawer and wrote his name down!

Jenni was always a pleasure to work with.

***

Sixth Form school trip to Paris in 1997. Mrs Jenni Holman and Mrs Mandy Lovick to the right and Mrs Val Mulcahy and Mrs Jenny Hanner to left.

Jenni pictured in the Pre-Prep garden, early 1990s.

 

Reception for Yearr 13 Art Exhibition, Mrs Pat Brafield and Mrs Jenni Holman, 1998.

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