Feature Stories Alumni: UMassD’s Jan Reynolds ’82 honors parents, value of education with philanthropy

Foundation Board member, donor, alumna
Reynolds remains heavily involved in the Corsair community with her philanthropy and by serving on the UMass Dartmouth Foundation Board.
Feature Stories Alumni: UMassD’s Jan Reynolds ’82 honors parents, value of education with philanthropy
UMassD’s Jan Reynolds ’82 honors parents, value of education with philanthropy

After Reynolds graduated from UMass Dartmouth with her father in 1982, she maintains a special connection to their alma mater with her extensive philanthropic history.

When Jan Reynolds ’82 pursued a bachelor’s degree in accounting at UMass Dartmouth (then Southeastern Massachusetts University), she did so alongside her father, Armand Houde ’82. With only a seventh-grade education and a GED he earned while serving in the U.S. military, Houde made the daring decision to study at a higher level after retiring from the service.

“I remember watching him and my mother with her ninth-grade education working on his statistics homework,” recalled Reynolds, then a continuing education student who was giving college a second go. “He worked, and worked, and worked until he graduated with me in 1982.”

Houde wasn’t the only one who was spending restless nights bent over classwork. Inspired by his motivation to succeed in the classroom, it took Reynolds seven years to complete her accounting degree while she worked a full-time job to afford chasing after her diploma. She said, “I knew how important it was for me to be able to go to college there. I always thought UMass Dartmouth was a jewel in the area that nobody paid attention to.”

To conclude days spent working long shifts, Reynolds zoomed to the classroom to learn how to balance sheets and crunch numbers as nightfall loomed, sometimes even tucked into a corner of the library hours after the sun disappeared along the horizon.

“I remember going to the library and using those punch cards,” said Reynolds. “You punched holes in these cards to tell the computer what you want it to do, and then you’d wait for the card to go through the computer. If you didn’t do it exactly right, you’d find a ripped punch card in the basket two hours later and have to do it all over again!”

Exhaustion plagued this working college student, but nothing motivated Reynolds like her father’s determination and grit. As their journeys unraveled together and their bond deepened over shared experiences, she soon began to see UMass Dartmouth’s concrete campus as the land of opportunity, where those who sought more would find more if they concentrated on their education. It’s a legacy she’s dedicated to prolonging with her continued engagement with the Corsair community and extensive philanthropic history with the university.

Father-daughter graduate together
Reynolds and Houde donned caps and gowns together when they graduated from UMass Dartmouth in 1982.

Discovering what’s beyond UMassD

After Reynolds graduated in 1982, the beginnings of her career whisked her away from the SouthCoast, a region she’d come to know and love. She leapt into the industry as a staff accountant for Rhodes, Rice and Co, PC in Hartford, CT. In just two short years, she became a partner of the company and renamed it Rice, Reynolds, and Scanlon, PC, an impressive feat supported by skills acquired and lessons learned as a UMass Dartmouth student.

However, Reynolds’ life changed dramatically when her family began to grow throughout the years. Tending to the needs of her children, she left her accounting career, but still remained ingrained in the workforce by doing volunteer work and jobs for local businesses, like setting up a foundation for a local library and working as a manager for a friend’s political campaign.

After her children became adults, Reynolds eventually landed in Virginia, a state that feels like home to her now. Until its closure in 2016, she worked at a friend’s card and gift shop, Li’l Shoppe of Cards Gift Store, and eventually became a co-owner.

“When you have an accounting degree, you can do a lot of things with it, even on a volunteer basis,” Reynolds explained, grateful for her UMassD education that consistently opened doors of possibility for her. “All of this proved to me that you can always do something with your degree, no matter where you end up.”

As Reynolds reflects on her past career experiences, she realizes that education is never wasted, a special value she learned while a UMass Dartmouth student alongside her father and carried with her for many years to come. All that this father-daughter duo academically achieved together served as evidence that learning transcends circumstances, and sometimes, the pursuit of higher education is not always about getting the degree; it’s about personal growth.

Donor with students at Vets Resource Center
Reynolds smiles with student-veterans, James Miceli '24 (right) and Javier Villanueva '25 (left), at the Veterans' Resource Center's grand opening in April 2023.

Corsair pride prevails across state lines

Reynolds never forgot the monumental impact UMass Dartmouth had on the relationship she shared with her father and her outlook on education’s importance. Despite being thousands of miles away, Reynolds is still involved with the UMass Dartmouth community and frequently returns to campus as a member of the UMass Dartmouth Foundation Board, which supports the scholarly development and personal growth of UMass Dartmouth and its students.

“I’m impressed at the Board meetings to hear more about what’s going on at UMass Dartmouth and how they’re pushing faculty to engage with students and to be mentors to them,” Reynolds said. “It’s so important because you could be having trouble and they can steer you in the right direction.”

Reynolds also donated funds to help establish the Veterans’ Resource Center on campus, a safe space for military-affiliated students who have similar life experiences to gather as a community. Undoubtedly, this philanthropic move was inspired by her own father’s service to the nation.

“When you join the military, you give up your entire life,” Reynolds said in a speech to student veterans at the Center’s grand opening, eyes glossy as she remembered her father’s struggles as a servicemember. “You give up your family, spouses, children, and friends to be told what to do, when to do it, and you have no input. You do that so I can have independence.”

Another way Reynolds has paid homage to her parents is by establishing student scholarships, preserving their shared love for education and desire to help others succeed academically. She said, “I wanted to honor my parents, so we set up scholarships in their names. I thought it was important because so many people look at the cost of college, and they just can’t do it.

“I think philanthropy is key not just in higher education; it’s key in all education,” Reynolds continued. “You have to show people a different world, and education is the way to do it.”

As Reynolds continues to pay forward the invaluable lessons learned alongside her father and provide opportunities to current students, their mutual belief in the transformative power of education lives on through her philanthropy. Just as Houde inspired her with his perseverance and determination as a budding scholar, Reynolds’ generosity serves as a guiding light, illuminating the path forward for many generations of Corsairs to come.