Seymour Library Public Service Assistant and Art Technician Jason Connell is hard at work on a Friday afternoon, lining up wooden supports with drywall in order to create more studio spaces for art students in the Whitcomb Art Center. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights Connell works behind a library desk, so he appreciates indulging his creative side in WAC on Thursdays and Fridays. His major in Studio Art — which he completed at Knox in 2006 — and his connections in the community have enabled this delicate work balance that he now enjoys.
Connell moved with his wife Trisha Hurst to Knox in 2001. Hurst had been hired as the Student Activities Director, and committed to it with enthusiasm, so Connell followed along as well. He recalled Hurst saying that Knox had been “exactly what we’ve been looking for.” The sentiment worked both ways, as Knox had been looking for people like Connell and Hurst to work with them. This was shown in Connell’s nomination for the Janet C. Hunter Prize for Distinguished Service, which recognizes outstanding accomplishments and service to Knox College.
Connell was hired as a library public service assistant in 2001 and concurrently attended Knox as a non-traditional student. Since then, he has continued working in the library and was then also hired by the Art Department in 2011. Connell has retained connections with those he worked with throughout his 17 years at Knox, and has been a valuable member of the staff. Most importantly, he never gets tired of doing what he loves.
Connell did not realize that he was to be rewarded at Convocation for his dedication to his multifaceted job duties. He even had to be tricked into attending the event — members of the library staff told him that they would be recognizing Carley Robinson, who recently retired from her position as the Archivist of Seymour Library. Connell then came to Convocation to support his colleague.
“Little did I know, it wasn’t Carley, it was me!” Connell said.
As the tradition goes in the awarding of faculty and service prizes, President Teresa Amott gave clues for who the winners may be before announcing their name. This included descriptions of Connell’s job duties on campus. It was therefore a shock to Connell when he heard that the winner was a welder.
“Wait a minute, that’s me — there’s never been any welders on campus, I don’t know if there’s any other welders on campus. Yeah, I was shocked,” Connell said.
“I got strangely emotional and started crying . . . it was kind of like this flood of emotions and I started tearing up.”
Connell had met Janet Hunter in the past, and remembered her as a very genuine and caring person.
“She was just so genuine, and so wonderful. To get an award in her honor is just really touching to me, it’s amazing. Every time I know someone that’s gotten the award, it seems like it’s always well deserved,” Connell said.
Connell celebrated his award with a close friend and alum that Knox had brought to see him at Convocation. The Janet C. Hunter Prize has also given him a nice temporary perk in having an icebreaker with students that have congratulated him. Just as his friends that have matriculated through Knox before, Connell looks forward to seeing today’s students grow.
“I love working with the students, the staff and faculty . . . [Knox is] small enough that everybody knows everybody, so it feels like home to me.”
There will be an exhibition of Connell’s sculptures and ceramics hosted by the Art Department in WAC at 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28. As described on the events calendar, this reception will be “a special celebration of Jason’s invaluable and continuing contributions to Knox.” All are welcome to view Connell’s artwork and congratulate him on the Janet C. Hunter award.