Janet “Jan” Barkell, newest member of Southwestern Michigan College Foundation’s board, divides her time between Magician Lake and Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood since retiring from 41 years in television advertising sales and marketing.
In 2010, she completed 40 weeks of improvisation training and graduated from The Second City.
The world-renowned comedy club, theatre and improvisation school opened on a snowy 1959 Chicago night and now offers nightly live shows in Chicago, Toronto and Hollywood.
Second City’s alumni are a Who’s Who of show business, the launching pad for Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, James Belushi, John Belushi, John Candy, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Dratch, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Jeff Garlin, Ian Gomez, Bonnie Hunt, Richard Kind, Eugene Levy, Jane Lynch, Andrea Martin, Jack McBrayer, Tim Meadows, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Catherine O’Hara, Gilda Radner, Harold Ramis, Joan Rivers, Amy Sedaris, Martin Short, George Wendt and Fred Willard.
Barkell wasn’t having a midlife crisis, nor was she bidding to join “Saturday Night Live’s” cast.
“I thought it would enhance my sales ability,” Barkell explained while on SMC’s Dowagiac campus Dec. 13 for a foundation board meeting. “The whole premise of improv is ‘Yes, and…’ which is a good mantra for sales. You accept what’s given to you and build on it. There can be pushback in sales. If you accept what people say and build on it, partnerships you build can last a lifetime.”
From 2010-2016, Barkell was MeTV network sales manager for Weigel Broadcasting.
Before that, from 1996-2008, she served as senior sales director for NBC Sales and Marketing.
From 1983-1996, Barkell worked as vice president and sales manager for Blair Television.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in telecommunications from Michigan State University in 1975.
Prior community service includes the Off the Street Club, a Chicago-based advertising industry organization focused on at-risk, inner-city youth.
Time split between downtown Chicago and Magician Lake “has been a wonderful blend of experiences I’ve cherished since my parents first bought a cottage,” said Barkell, who loves gardening, kayaking and paddle boarding. “In the city I love theatre, museums and times out with friends.
“Dowagiac/Sister Lakes has been part of my life since 1967. My mother, Bonnie Barkell, calls Magician Lake home fulltime,” Barkell said. “During my working years you had to drag me away from the lake, but now, not tied to weekends, I really want to expand my scope away from the lakes area and dig deeper into the culture and people of southwest Michigan. This is a beautiful and bountiful part of the country I would love to know more fully. This campus is gorgeous.
“For a long time I had lots of young kids on staff who came out of four-year colleges swimming in debt,” she said. “If they had spent two years at a lovely institution like this, then done two years at a big university once they really knew what they wanted to do, they would have come out with half the debt. None of my dorms at State were as nice” as SMC’s residence halls.
The foundation, a non-profit, tax-exempt corporation established in 1971, assists SMC students who desire to enhance their lives through education and training.
The foundation supports the college in areas not funded through taxes, tuition and grants and accepts contributions to existing scholarships in addition to establishing new scholarships.
Direct endowment donations to: SMC Foundation, Director of Development, 58900 Cherry Grove Road, Dowagiac, MI 49047.
Contact Eileen Toney at (269) 782-1301 or email@example.com for more information.