Obituary: Gaines, former commencement director, 86

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 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.”

A funeral mass was held Dec. 20 at The Church of the Little Flower in Richmond Heights, Mo.

Memorial contributions may be made in her memory to Washington University, Campus Box 1202, Attn: Brian Lewis, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, Mo., 63130, or the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Attn: Chief Financial Officer, 4445 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, Mo., 63108.