In Pursuit of an Education, Not a Degree

Featuring JoAnna Rottke, Friend of the Dickens Project President and former Assistant Director of the Dickens Project.

June 22, 2019

“When I retired from the Dickens Project after nearly 20 years, I decided to share a percentage of my 403b as a bequest to the Project. During my 20 years of employment, the Project gave me so much, and I wanted to give something back. It's impossible to place a value on everything I learned, the opportunities I had, all of the friends I made, and the incredible experiences I had throughout this unique adventure. The Dickens Project was more than a job for me, it truly wasand still isa large part of my life.”

JoAnna Rottke formerly served as the Assistant Director of the Dickens Project from 1997 until 2016. She discovered the Dickens Project when she was hired by the Humanities Department at UC Santa Cruz, and became involved with the program in 1995 when she was hired to do financials for the Project.

As Project Coordinator, and later as Assistant Director, JoAnna took an interest in the Friends and became the ex-officio member of the Board. She was voted president in 2017. JoAnna is “really happy and proud to be the new president of the Friends.”

The Project continues to amaze JoAnna with its “relevance and value to so many communities.” JoAnna reflects, “I love that it reinvents itself and moves forward. It has been a huge part of my life for the past 20 plus years, and I’ve made many close friendships because of it.”

JoAnna’s interest in Charles Dickens bloomed when she was approached by the producer of a new quiz show who wanted to feature questions pertaining to Dickens on the pilot episode. “Doing the research for these projects revealed an incredibly fascinating man about whom I had known very little. It really all came about through my job."

When JoAnna isn’t spending time with Dickens, her life is all about dogs, either her own three, Santa Cruz SPCA foster dogs. JoAnna is also very interested in researching her family history and hopes to finally begin writing a narrative illustrating her own life.

“Over the years, I’ve had a lot of great Universe-related adventures,” says JoAnna. Some of her favorite parts about the Universe are reuniting with familiar faces, making new friends, seeing the look of revelation on those who have just discovered the Universe, and (of course) the Grand Party. “Even though I sustained several years of college, many of them at UCSC, I never graduated. John Jordan once told me I was ‘pursuing an education, not a degree.’ Much of that education came about through the Dickens Project and John Jordan, directly and indirectly, so that a lot of what I know today I learned during my tenure at the Project. I have to be grateful, and I choose to show my gratitude by helping to ensure the future for those who come after me.”