Historical Society celebrates Women’s History Month with educator Jane Condon

Historical Society celebrates Women’s History Month with educator Jane Condon

The world celebrated International Women’s Day on Tuesday, March 8. Girl power was at full throttle that evening in downtown Jacksonville as girls clad in rainbow-colored tutus, vibrant, oversized hair bows and side ponytails flocked to the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena to see pop icon JoJo Siwa perform.

Across the street at the historic Old St. Andrew’s Church, the Jacksonville Historical Society celebrated woman power as it welcomed educator and trailblazer Jane Condon and Carol Grimes to speak at its Women’s History Month program.

Kate Hallock, Jacksonville Historical Society Chief of Staff and Communications Director, said it was a “double blessing” to have coincidentally scheduled Condon’s event on International Women’s Day and how important it is to recognize and celebrate trailblazers like her.

“Girls of any age, including our age, need to have those role models and Jane fills that spot very well,” she said. “She was beloved, I understand, by the teachers, the faculty as well as the students at both of those schools. For the teachers to have been chosen by Jane to be part of those schools was an honor. They talk about it still today.”

Indeed, the staff and faculty hand-picked by Condon at LaVilla still wear a round, yellow button reading “Chosen by Jane,” which then inspired the title for her memoir.

Published in 2021, the memoir was a labor of love, shaped by several people playing various roles in its creation. It fell to co-author Carol Grimes to transform the initial draft into “a cohesive and entertaining piece of literature, dramatizing the drama and funnifying the humor so it would read like a good novel.”

Presenting her memoir at Tuesday’s event, Condon recounted stories of her youth, her early years as an educator and her personal life. Her talk focused on her experiences transforming Douglas Anderson School of the Arts (DASOTA) into the top ranked school for visual and performing arts it became under her leadership and the founding of its companion school — LaVilla School of the Arts.

Parents of alumni from both schools attended the event and several approached Condon prior to her speech, informing her their child attended one — or both — of her schools and thanking her for everything she did for her students.

“I thank you for your part,” one parent told her. “It was wonderful for them, it really was. We loved the school.”

Avondale residents Douglas and Lucia Lane’s daughter attended both LaVilla and DASOTA and said “the kids really feel at home” at both schools.

“It makes me so happy [to hear that]; the one thing I really, really wanted was for that school to survive and thrive,” Condon said, although she expressed her recognition of and appreciation for the teamwork that played such a crucial role in making both schools what they are today.

“I thought, ‘It’s up to me,’” she said. “Then I realized, ‘You know it’s not. It’s up to you to make sure that everybody does what they’re supposed to do and if everybody is doing it, then it’s going to do well.’”

Condon has had a lifelong appreciation for the arts, beginning with a childhood dream of becoming a ballerina that was thwarted by a phone call home from her ballet teacher.

“My ballet teacher called my mother and said, ‘…You’re wasting your money on this child. She has no rhythm,’” Condon recalled, laughing.

Her father, she continued, was slow to accept that and it wasn’t until her parents saw her perform in a ballet recital — front and center — that he admitted, “I think the teacher’s right; I think we need to find something else.”

Condon later found her niche. “I could read and I could talk,” she said, and her elocution and public speaking classes would prime her perfectly for her career in education: first as a teacher both locally and abroad, and later as principal for DASOTA and LaVilla.

Condon and Grimes’s presentation was part of the Jacksonville Historical Society’s “Speaker Series,” a monthly lecture program on various topics pertinent to Jacksonville history and featuring speakers of note in a wide range of fields, from historians to artists.

By Michele Leivas
Resident Community News

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