When Jane Clark retired in 2018 after a 37-year career as a professor, department chair and dean at the School of Public Health, she didn’t want to just ride off into the sunset. “I wanted to be repurposed, not retired.”

That’s why she became a “Legacy Leader.” That’s the term for volunteers at the Legacy Leadership Institute for Public Policy (LLIPP) program, led by the School of Public Health. For nearly 20 years, it has trained and placed retirees—each with decades of experience and a passion for serving the community—to work with Maryland state legislators. 

Jane Clark headshotNow, Clark and her partner and fellow Legacy Leader, Jill Whitall, a professor emerita at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, have made the first philanthropic gift to the program, to establish the Legacy Leadership Institute for Public Policy Current Use Fund.

“This is really to give the program a foundation for its continued existence, because it’s a real asset to the School of Public Health, the University of Maryland and the state of Maryland,” Clark said.

The LLIPP program began as a response to a University of Maryland Center on Aging survey showing baby boomers were interested in volunteer activities that involved personal growth, lifelong learning and meaningful work. 

“This program allows individuals to feel like they can understand, contribute to and improve the lives of citizens where they live,” said Wesley Queen, coordinator of the program.

Clark discovered the program while still serving as SPH dean. Queen invited her to visit one of the classes that precede the placement of volunteers in legislators’ offices during the 90-day General Assembly session, and she was instantly enamored. “I said to Wes right there on the spot, save me a seat.”

After retiring and completing the classroom segment, Clark was placed in the office of Howard County Del. Terri Hill, while Whitall worked in the office of Frederick County Sen. Ron Young earlier this year. 

“You volunteer in whatever way you can to help, whether it’s looking something up on the internet, writing a brief on something that your legislator is interested in or going to the Xerox machine,” Clark said. “I had a good time, I enjoyed myself, but I also learned so much from doing it.”

When the 2019 legislative session ended in April, Clark and Whitall invited their Legacy Leader cohort to a celebration barbecue, where they suggested creating a fund for the program. Then they challenged the other classes to join them in growing it.

The fund will support program expenses, including staffing, alumni engagement and merit-based awards to participants. Queen also hopes to see the program expand to support local Maryland government beyond the 90-day legislative session. 

With funding, the program can also create internship opportunities for undergraduate and master students in civic engagement. Current SPH Dean Boris Lushniak is enthusiastic about pairing students with retirees and encouraging them to work to understand how impacts on health should be a consideration in all policy decision-making.

“The government functions better when the citizens are involved,” Queen said.