Raised in a family in which few members continued their education after high school, Jean Andrews became a nurse and then an associate professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota.
She became a booster for post-high school education for her relatives, friends and others.
“When I was 10 years old, she took me on trips to visit various universities,” said Joe Weyland, her godson and cousin. “She challenged me to be a better person intellectually.”
Kristi Finnan of Rockford, Ill., described her cousin as an embodiment of Mary Tyler Moore in Moore’s self-titled TV show in the 1970s. “I’d visit her in Chicago in her stylish apartment and she didn’t have a husband or kids and I thought, ‘Wow, I could be like this someday,’ ” Finnan said.
Andrews died of complications of Parkinson’s disease on Jan. 11. She was 91.
She began her career in nursing as a student in the 1950s. Aware of the challenges for women seeking to advance their careers, she encouraged her co-workers to use education as a tool to do it. She went on to earn a master’s degree in nursing education at DePaul University in Chicago and her doctorate from Ohio State.
Designing curricula for career advancement for nurses was her specialty when she taught at the U’s School of Nursing from 1972 to 1990. “It was a patriarchal time for nurses back then,” said Weyland. “Her goal was to make it a more level playing field in health care.”
After retiring in 1991, she continued to enrich the lives of those around her. She volunteered at the Center for Victims of Torture in St. Paul, where torture survivors receive medical and nursing care, psychotherapy, social services and physical therapy.
In 2000, she received a Virginia McKnight Binger Award in Human Service for her work at the torture victims’ center, the Chrysalis center for women in the Twin Cities and the Church of St. Cecilia in St. Paul. The nomination described Andrews as being “all too aware of the difficulties women had in advancing their careers. Jean never lost her desire to continually help others in their quest to succeed.”
At the time, Andrews said of her award, “I feel I’m making good use of any experiences I’ve been privileged to have.”
Beth Wickum, director of volunteer services at the Center for Victims of Torture, said Andrews’ volunteering showed her devotion to a life of service and social justice. “She was an outstanding advocate for people who have suffered some of the worst cruelty known to humankind,” Wickum said. “And she did this serious work with a light heart and a twinkle in her eye.”
She was also practical, doing the kind of grunt work needed in any organization or charity. At the Center for Victims of Torture, she created a team model for the client service coordinators that is still in use.
Lisa Fink, a friend and fellow volunteer at the center, said Andrews took pleasure in relationships of all kinds. “She was full of delight in people, animals and everything surrounding her.”
When Fink visited Andrews in a care facility, she said she found Andrews educating the staff on assisted living. “She was an educator to the very end,” Fink said.
Andrews married for the first time when she was in her 60s. “It was nice to see her have a partner and experience a different kind of happiness,” Finnan said. “She wasn’t unhappy before that. It was just a different kind of happiness.”
Andrews was preceded in death by her husband, Leonard. A private memorial service has been held.