During an era when girls and women were not necessarily encouraged to pursue careers or studies in math and science, Jan Malcolm excelled in those classes while attending Minnetonka High School back in the early 1970s.
"To tell you the truth, I don't remember ever being discouraged, as a girl, from shooting high academically or in any other way by our teachers at Minnetonka," recalls Malcolm, a 1973 graduate. "A good example is the fact that I was president of our class and all four of the officers that year were girls. We felt we could do anything."
She has relied on that confidence throughout her career. Currently, Malcolm is the CEO of Courage Center, a not-for-profit center in Golden Valley that provides a wide array of therapy and rehabilitative services for people with disabilities.
"It is an honor for me to be in charge of this wonderful organization," says Malcolm, who oversees fundraising, strategic direction, and the operations for Courage Center. "I really find it rewarding and energizing to work at a place where people's lives are improved each and every day."
Prior to her present post, Malcolm had several high-profile positions. They included: Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, New Jersey; Vice President of Public Affairs at Allina Health System; and Senior Vice President of Government Programs and Public Policy at HealthPartners.
But perhaps Malcolm's biggest job was serving as Minnesota's Commissioner of Health from 1999 to 2003. She was appointed to the post by Governor Jesse Ventura.
"I would have to say that position was the pinnacle of my career," says Malcolm of the job in which she led a staff of 1,200 people and oversaw a budget of $400 million. "To be involved in setting public health policy at that level was quite a challenge, and a privilege."
While many aspects of her stint with the state were memorable, Malcolm says she's most proud of her work in helping develop a plan for allocating the state's tobacco lawsuit settlement.
"At the time, the governor decided that the settlement was an extraordinary opportunity to do something unique and strategic for the state's health and healthcare system. So we set up a series of endowments for prevention initiatives, including programs to prevent tobacco usage by teens. We also set up some health programs designed to provide more access to healthcare for a variety of people, relative to their socio-economic status."
Malcolm's original career plan was to be a doctor. But while attending Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, she became interested in healthcare administration and public policy. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in philosophy and psychology.
Today Malcolm is nationally recognized as a leader in healthcare public policy, yet she remains in touch with several friends from her days at MHS. One of those is well-known folk singer and song writer, Ann Reed ('73).
"We had a good class and even though we went to school during the Vietnam era – I remember it as a pretty innocent time," she says. "All of my memories of Minnetonka High School are good ones. It was a school where, if you wanted to work hard, you could get a very good education and be well-prepared for the future."