Category: Alumni Stories, Giving News

Title:Raymond T. Reott (C’77) and Joanne Landgraff Reott (SLL’77) (Parents’13): “Two different, widely separate periods” of Georgetown

Reotts with classmates

What are your names, Georgetown schools, and graduation years?

Raymond T. Reott: My name is Raymond T. Reott and I graduated from Georgetown University College of Arts & Sciences in 1977.

Joanne Landgraff Reott: My name is Joanne Landgraff Reott and I graduated from the School of Language & Linguistics in 1977.

What would you like to share about your relationship to Georgetown?

RTR & JLR: We are parents to a Hoya daughter, Kate Reott (SFS’13). We are strong believers in Georgetown and its values. 

Tell us about one of your favorite Georgetown memories.

RTR: As a Georgetown parent, I have experienced the university during two different, widely separate periods, and wanted to point out a significant difference that I believe can be traced back to events in the early ’70s and the decisions made then by a few people whose impact can still be felt today. 

When I arrived at Georgetown in 1973, Spring Break was usually a trip to Florida or skiing in the mountains. While there were some tutoring programs, the concept of service was not well-established in the student body. I could see a vast difference when our daughter Kate started at Georgetown in 2009. The concept of service to others was much more firmly established with literally hundreds of students spending significant amounts of their time on various service programs run by the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service (CSJ). I believe that change had its beginnings when I attended Georgetown.

In 1975, Kathy Jantzen (NHS’78), a Georgetown nursing student, used her Spring Break to work in an impoverished coal community in West Virginia. She went alone with little university support. When she returned, she worked with the Reverend Kyle McGee (Georgetown’s first Protestant and African American chaplain) from the Campus Ministry office to develop a program for a wider range of Georgetown students. In the fall of 1975, Rev. McGee and Kathy sought volunteers for an organizing committee for a project called Spring Break in Appalachia. I was fortunate to be in that initial organizing group with Kathy and my eventual wife, Joanne. Our group of about 12 students worked to transform Kathy’s initial, adventurous journey into a broader, new experience that would be available to a wider Georgetown community.

By Spring Break in 1976, we had a group of volunteers large enough to fill much of a yellow school bus that traveled to Northfork, West Virginia. Using Kathy’s contacts from her prior trip, we arrived and were immediately put to work on a variety of tasks in the community. The committee arranged transportation, housing, and food. We had, as I remember, some modest financial support from the Campus Ministry office.

It was Kathy’s idea that started this process. She was critical in organizing her own trip and the first trip for the wider group of participants. During her remaining time at Georgetown, Kathy continued to work with Rev. McGee and others in the Georgetown Campus Ministry office to expand the Spring Break in Appalachia program. By the time of our graduation in 1977, Spring Break in Appalachia had its own section in the yearbook. It was an institutional part of Georgetown like The Corp, GUTS, and other student organizations that were founded in the 1970s.

According to the university website, Spring Break in Appalachia is now one of the country’s longest-running Alternative Spring Break service trips. At Georgetown, the organized concept of spending Spring Break in service to others started with Kathy Jantzen. Many others came after Kathy and nurtured what she started. After the founding members graduated, Rev. McGee was critical to providing continuity from our initial group of students who organized the first full program. Kathy and Rev. McGee made a critical contribution to Georgetown while they were at the university that has grown and lasted for decades.

Forty-seven years later, Georgetown still sponsors Spring Break in Appalachia (renamed Alternative Spring Break) under the CSJ. Literally hundreds of Georgetown students participate in any given year at a variety of locations as the program has expanded beyond Appalachia. When you read the testimonials on the CSJ’s website, you get a sense that the participants regard this one- or two-week commitment during their Georgetown experience to have been among the most important work that they did in or outside of the classroom. I certainly feel that way about our 1976 trip.

Did you find your calling at Georgetown?

RTR: At that time, I was just beginning to think about a career in law. I thought it extraordinary that people would have well-furnished homes in southern West Virginia, but would spend little or nothing on the structure of their homes. The mineral rights of the coal beneath their homes resided with someone else who could take the coal at any time by any means without regard to how it damaged their homes. Thus, it was foolish to invest in anything that was not portable. Many years later, based on this initial experience, I would head a pro bono legal program at my firm for coal miners appealing their denial of black lung benefits. I am sure many other students would have similar stories about the impact of their Spring Break service program.

As a married couple, you are longtime donors to a variety of programs at the university. Why do you consistently give to Georgetown?

RTR & JLR: We have been modest, but faithful, contributors to Georgetown. This year, we made a more substantial contribution to CSJ to help continue the Spring Break programs that Kathy Jantzen and Rev. McGee began. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the program, perhaps this gift can be used to jumpstart a fundraising campaign or to honor Kathy and Rev. McGee for their vision. Sadly, Rev. McGee passed away in 2021, but fortunately for Georgetown, his legacy lives on.

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