From South Jersey to Switzerland

Multilingual Rutgers–Camden alumna who has lived and taught for four decades in Europe supports scholarships for Camden students.

Jeannette Regan CCAS’70 in Bern, Switzerland, near the Swiss Alps.

By Sam Starnes

Jeannette Regan was a young mother when she enrolled at Rutgers University–Camden in the late 1960s. “It was very unusual for married women who were mothers to be at the university,” Regan said. She met only one other student who was married and had a child, and they became friends.

A native of Merchantville, New Jersey, whose family moved to Cherry Hill, Regan had graduated from Holy Cross High School in Burlington County and attended Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, where she majored in French. After taking a year off, she married and had a daughter, and then decided to continue her education at Rutgers–Camden. Passionate about languages, she took some Spanish classes, but at an adviser’s recommendation, she majored in political science, which also was her friend’s major. “Her husband said, ‘This is the housewife’s major now,’” Regan said with a laugh. “We had great fun with that.”

Regan received her Rutgers–Camden degree in 1970, and began teaching at a Camden school with many native Spanish speakers. She said her Spanish courses helped her support many disadvantaged students.

While Regan and her first husband were in the process of divorce, she earned a master’s degree in political science at Temple University. There she met her future husband, a graduate student from the German-speaking region of Switzerland, and their relationship blossomed over a few years. “We decided we would come to Switzerland, I would learn some German, and we would be here for maybe two years,” she said. “That was more than 40 years ago.”

She and her husband, a retired trade diplomat, have lived in various parts of Switzerland and now reside in Yvonand overlooking Lake Neuchâtel and the Swiss Jura Mountains. “We live in four languages every day,” said Regan, who is fluent in German and French, and understands Swiss German. “When the phone rings, we don’t know what language it is going to be at the other end.”

Regan earned a doctorate in educational psychology at the University of Lausanne and taught academic English there, as well as the universities of Bern and Fribourg. She has retired from these, but she continues to teach French-speaking Swiss doctoral students who are writing in English.

An avid reader and lover of nature who once hiked the entire length of Switzerland with her husband, she has been politically active in Switzerland in a variety of causes, including gender equity, financial integrity, and the environment, which has been a focus of hers since the late 1960s. “I feel at home in Switzerland because there is so much concern for the environment,” she said.

Although she has lived abroad for more than four decades, she hasn’t forgotten her undergraduate alma mater. “Rutgers was great,” she said. “I had excellent teachers.”

When the pandemic began, Regan decided to give $10,000 she had designated for Rutgers–Camden in her will to the Watson Family Scholarship, which supports students from the city of Camden who attend the Rutgers–Camden College of Arts and Sciences. “I thought with things uncertain and with the need so great that instead of waiting until I die, this would be a good moment to give,” she said.

Comments are closed.