News & Updates

Bradley University: a place where people shine

Native Peorian Jay Janssen ’59 came to Bradley because it was close. Joan Lorig Janssen ’69 enrolled because it was closer to the North Shore suburbs of Chicago than her other top choice: University of Michigan. The Janssens’ connection with the University continues, however, because they graduated with more than an education. They gained a sense of direction, confidence, and support—intrinsic attributes that helped them become the leaders they are today.

When Jay, a prominent Peoria attorney, came to Bradley, he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life. He enrolled in a speech class and soon after giving his first speech, Jay’s professor introduced him to L.E. Norton, coach of Bradley’s forensics team.

“The speech team became my home away from home. It was a wonderful program back then, and it still is today,” Jay says, noting Bradley has won more national forensics championships than any other university in the country.

Among Jay’s memories is the day he and another student debated a national issue with the visiting Oxford Debating Society. The young freshman felt he and his partner did very well against the team from England. “Do you know how much confidence that gave me? You think back on a lot of events during your college days that mold you and give you confidence. This is one I remember.”

Norton encouraged Jay to consider a career in law. After graduating in three years from Bradley, Jay enrolled at the University of Illinois College of Law. There, he was a moot court winner and had the opportunity to argue a case before the Illinois Supreme Court.

“Bradley’s forensics program prepared me. When you’re trying a case, the whole issue is believability. It takes confidence and sincerity,” Jay says. “Having confidence in your ability to present a cogent argument and reach a conclusion is the very essence of what we did in debate.”

Just as Jay credits his Bradley experience with having a deep impact on his life, so does Joan. “Bradley gives people the opportunity to really shine,” she says.

Joan has modeled, taught high school English, and holds a real estate license. She took it to heart when her father told her she needs to pay her civic rent and says her passion is the Crittenton Crisis Nursery, which she was instrumental in bringing to Peoria. The nursery provides free 24-hour, 365-day childcare for families in crisis. Her involvement with the Crittenton Centers doesn’t stop there. She has served in many capacities, including as board president for four terms, and received the Charles N. Crittenton Distinguished Merit Award. Joan also has been a volunteer and board member for organizations such as the Peoria Junior League, Tri-County Women Strength (now Center for the Prevention of Abuse), and Opera Illinois and has been named Junior League Volunteer of the Year.

Her commitment to Bradley is unwavering. Joan has volunteered at the University in various leadership roles for nearly 40 years, beginning in the 1970s as a member of Bradley’s Alumni Association board. She later served on the Bradley Council and currently is a member of the Board of Trustees.

Donors to Bradley for more than 40 years, the Janssens fund the Jay Janssen Oratorical Contest to provide scholarships to senior high school students who finish in first, second, and third place in the annual contest. Members of the Renaissance Circle Society, they have made a $1 million pledge to the Campaign for a Bradley Renaissance.

Joan says, “We feel that Bradley has afforded us the opportunities to be where we are right now, and we want to give back. We feel so blessed to have been able to go to Bradley, and we want to support what has supported us.”