Jean Gaines, former director of commencement, dies at 86

Believed to hold the record for longest continuous service at Washington University

Genevieve L. ‘Jean’ Gaines, who served Washington University for more than 55 years in roles ranging from a secretary, to administrative assistant, to associate registrar and lastly, as director of commencement, died Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008. She was 86.


Gaines retired from the University in 2002, having served under six chancellors, beginning with Nobel laureate Arthur Holly Compton and running through, in order, Ethan A.H. Shepley, Carl Tolman, Thomas Eliot, William H. Danforth and current Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. She is believed to hold the record for the longest continuous service at Washington University.

From 1946-1998, Gaines worked in the Office of the Registrar, now called Student Records, where she was promoted from secretary to administrative assistant to associate registrar. In 1998, she joined public affairs as director of commencement.

“Jean Gaines was the ultimate Washington University employee,” said James Burmeister, executive director of University relations and Commencement, and commencement chair from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s. “She always put the students first in a caring and concerned way.”

Her family will receive friends from 5-7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19, in the Great Hall of Ambruster-Donnelly Mortuary, 6633 Clayton Road, Clayton, Mo. A funeral mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 20, at The Church of the Little Flower, 1264 Arch Terrace, Richmond Heights, Mo. Interment to follow in Calvary Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made in her memory to Washington University or the Archdiocese of St. Louis.