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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

After 17 years of service, Community Service Director Diane Hannan says goodbye to Brandeis

Published: May 2, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

What brought Community Service Director Diane Hannan to her current job? Chalk it up to serendipity if you ask her. But a move to Boston 20 years ago and a chance posting for the position of director and advisor for the Waltham group caught her attention. Now, 17 years and many fond memories later, Hannan has decided to retire.

Like any beginning, Hannan’s at Brandeis posed certain challenges. Lacking a program budget, Hannan had to fundraise substantially to sustain the department, an experience that was “very labor intensive for the students and myself.” But work with development, her own department, and the student union paid off and secured solid funding. “I feel proud that I am leaving the Brandeis world of community service on solid [financial] footing.”

The potential of working on a college campus peaked Hannan’s interest. “My background is in social services so I used to work the other side of the fence,” she explained. Once she learned more about the job and “realized that I would still have my connections with the people in the community, it seemed like just a wonderful fit.”

During her time at Brandeis, Hannan has been responsible for matching students with community agencies in their search for volunteer service and has worked side by side with students in the Waltham Group. Hannan also worked to bring about the Community Engaged Learning program, a program whereby students work with disadvantaged area residents, on campus. “That is something that I’m very supportive of [and] very enthusiastic about.” Hannan believes that there are “so many successes in the community. It’s very exciting to have both the community service, which is the traditional co-curricular after school volunteering and this Community Engaged Learning, which is course-based service. That is a very exciting new aspect that has been brought to Brandeis and I am certainly thrilled that it is here and hopefully it will receive more support and funding, and it will continue to grow.”

Hannan has worked in close conjunction with both the Brandeis and Waltham communities over the years and has formed close bonds with members of each. “The partnerships are truly sustainable, reciprocal partnerships that really reflect the needs of the community and the community voice and [I] have had such wonderful relationships with community members. I consider so many of them my friends.” For the people who have worked closely with her, Hannan has meant so much more than being a mere co-worker. “She’s a great hostess. [She’s a] very good cook, very welcoming,” Office of Student Life’s Michelle Ercoline recalled fondly. Ercoline’s four years of work with Hannan have taught her the importance of “using your personality to make people feel welcomed to come in and to work with you, and to not be intimidated by coming into an administration office.”

A coordinator for the Waltham Group for four years, Samantha Lakin ’08 has worked closely with Hannan, especially on the Budget and Steering Committee, and has witnessed Hannan’s dedication first hand. “Diane is an amazing leader and an inspiration to all. She works endlessly for the community, and her commitment to Waltham and Brandeis shines through in everything she does,” Lakin wrote in an email. “She has taught me to be a leader, to value the work I do in the community, and to always look for new needs that can be met in the community. She has taught me how to work with community partners, as well. “

Hannan’s work with community partners and students “is going to be the hardest part of the position to leave. I have been privileged to meet hundreds of wonderfully dedicated, intelligent committed students who have kept me motivated and energetic and not allowed me to slack off in any way.”

Like any goodbye, Hannan’s is bittersweet. “I think it’s good for her though to be with her family and friends more, but we’re definitely gonna miss her,” Ercoline said. Lakin agreed, “Diane is a true gem, she has inspired me to push myself and challenge myself to do things I never thought I could do. This community will never be able to replace her.”