Jan Baum (Mattiske), Class of 1969
Foundation student who dedicated her career to helping others.
Jan Baum (Class of 1969) sits across from me, keen to assure me there is nothing particularly exceptional about her story. I disagree. An exceptional life doesn’t come about through one particular act or achievement, in fact it’s the culmination of many inspiring moments, courageous decisions and adventures that make it so. Jan has a wonderful story, is a passionate advocate for health and education and has a lifelong connection with Luther College. Here is her story.
A foundation student at Luther College, Jan started as a day student when the college opened in 1964. Day students were those local to the area, who as the name suggests spent their day at school, returning home each evening. The majority of students however were boarders, coming from regional Victoria to attend the new Lutheran school.
Jan had spent her primary years in Torquay and Ballarat but returned to Croydon with her family the year prior to starting secondary school, excited and nervous for her new adventure. Jan’s mother Eva, now 98, took an active interest in the school right from the start, even leading the selection of fabric and design with sister Nola, for the first Luther College uniform. It was also through her mother’s links with the school that years later Jan would meet and marry a young chemistry teacher from South Australia.
Jan recalls her time at the college fondly, particularly in the latter years where she enjoyed daily lunches with her besties David Herzog, Bill Wettenhall and Jenny Chapman.
“Luther College was a place of high expectations especially in the early years as they established the school. By the time I graduated, my confidence had grown, and I had formed wonderful friendships with people like David, Bill and Jenny,” Jan said.
“I knew right away what I wanted to do when I finished school was to become a nurse,” she said.
Jan undertook her nursing training through a live in program at the Alfred Hospital, but it was a trip to Alice Springs to visit her twin cousins, also nurses, that cemented her passion for the profession. She saw the difference that could be made for communities with the right access to health care and education.
During her training it was a chance visit home to pick up ‘something’ that she met Bruce Baum. Not realising her parents had company, it was that short meeting that resulted in a marriage proposal three months later.
“That night when I met Bruce, it wasn’t for long, but I knew instantly he was the one,” she said.
Always a thoughtful person, Jan’s mum Eva had invited Bruce over for dinner after talking to him at the college and discovering he knew very few people in Victoria. Good thing she did, for it was that sliding doors moment Jan met her soul mate, future husband and father of children. Jan and Bruce celebrated the arrival of three sons, Stuart, Michael and Tim, a close-knit family, their boys all educated at Luther College.
Jan’s career in nursing went from strength to strength, while also juggling motherhood in those early years. To keep her finger on the pulse, she would do night duty once or twice a week and worked part-time for many years. When Jan talks about nursing her face lights up, happy to detail her time as a theatre nurse, assisting hundreds of general and cardiothoracic surgeries, and a long career as an emergency room nurse where she witnessed everything from a stubbed toe to an amputated hand!
She was later headhunted by a plastic surgeon and spent time back in theatre before she began to revaluate her future.
After much thought she moved into Oncology, she missed conversations with patients and knew she could make a difference in the lives of those facing their greatest challenge.
“I was pleased to play a role in helping people understand their treatment, to educate them and make sense of what was ahead for them.
“It’s really important people have the information they need to make decisions and feel confident about their treatment, and I enjoyed being able to provide that,” Jan said.
It was at the same time Jan picked up a paint brush and began to dabble, she found it the perfect escape from the stress of work. Jan has since refined her skills with local courses and plenty of practise!
“I have always had a real love of nature in art and began painting birds, fish and botanicals (to scale) using water colour. My paintings can take three to four months because I don’t paint every day but I am certainly inspired by my surroundings. Trees like the flowering gum mesmerise me with its intricate detail.
“If I see something beautiful that I can capture and do it justice, I will give it a go. I am in awe of botanical artists like Celia Rosser, so with continued practice and training I’d be honoured to even get near that level of skill,” she smiled.
These days not only does Jan spend her time painting, but she enjoys the company of her adorable three-year-old granddaughter Hadley. At the time of our interview a little voice could be heard approaching, an excited squeal as she spotted Gan, Hadley’s name for Jan (a combination of Gran and Jan).
In that moment you could see pure joy, but before she could be distracted too much, Jan asked me to remind anyone considering a career in nursing to go for it.
“Nursing is a wonderful profession with so many options, it’s flexible, family friendly and importantly gives you the opportunity to advocate for people in need.
“I’ve never taken for granted the special role I had in doing that, it’s incredibly rewarding,” she said.
Jan finished our chat with these words: health and education are everything, they are the foundation on which all is built, so be part of it. A special thank you also to Jan’s husband Bruce, an accomplished (but partly retired) chemistry teacher who of late has provided many hours of casual relief teaching. We love having Bruce back at the college and thank him for his continued service.
Jan donated two beautiful pieces of artwork to the college for which we are very grateful.