Alumna of the Year 2017: Jeanette (Prantil) Handelsman ’64

We are thrilled to announce that Jeanette (Prantil) Handelsman ’64 has received the Sr. Claire Patrice Fitzgerald ‘56 Alumna of the Year Award for 2017. The Alumna of the Year Award began 31 years ago to honor a woman whose values and accomplishments are consistent with the mission, core values and ideals of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet and the Academy of Our Lady of Peace. Mrs. Handelsman has served hundreds of students in many capacities over her 30 years on OLP’s staff.

OLP has been a part of Mrs. Handelsman’s life in someway or another for over 66 years. She was a student at OLP from kindergarten through high school, graduating with the class of 1964. Her cousins, nieces and daughter, Elisa (Handelsman) Kennedy ‘92, also graduated from OLP.

She moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend college and decided to stay. She married her husband, launched her teaching career, and started her family. In 1989, Mrs. Handelsman returned to OLP as a biology teacher and was welcomed home with open arms. “I appreciated OLP more when I came back the second time,” Jeanette says.

Not only was she seeing her alma mater from the perspective of a teacher, she was also experiencing it as a parent of a student. She appreciates the invaluable education and experience that her daughter received from OLP. “I am so proud of my daughter’s professional success and who she is as a wife and mother,” Jeanette says. “She left OLP knowing that if you work as hard as you can, you can do anything.”

Jeanette served in various leadership roles during her tenure at OLP, ranging from teacher to her most recent position as Assistant Principal & Director of Campus Life. She managed OLP’s travel program for many years and was the moderator of the Associated Student Body (ASB) Government since the fall of 1992. She was instrumental in transforming ASB into the Council of 10, a leadership program for students modeled after the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

“When I went back to school to get my Master’s, I realized that we as women have a distinct form of leadership that isn’t always recognized as valuable. It’s very nurturing, collaborative, which I think our world needs more than anything else,” Jeanette says. “At OLP, we honor this distinct type of leadership which our world sorely needs. This one of the most important things that happens here.”

Mrs. Handelsman has made a lasting impression on everyone she has met through OLP over the years. “Jeanette Handelsman has not only dedicated most of her life to OLP, she has given OLP her heart. Through her passion for educating young women to discover all of which they are capable, she has inspired generations of OLP students to reach for their potential. I have personally benefitted from her wisdom and compassion. Her legacy lives on in each OLP student who graduates with a passion to make a difference in our world,” Mrs. Hooper, Assistant Head of School, says.

In May 2017, Mrs. Handelsman retired from her position as Assistant Principal & Director of Campus Life to spend more time with her four grandchildren. “The time is right. I am thrilled to spend more time with my grandchildren and do things that I haven’t had a chance to do in a long time,” she says. However she will not be leaving OLP entirely, as she is continuing on part-time as OLP’s Alumnae Relations Coordinator. She is excited for the next chapter and hopes that she will strengthen alumnae involvement with the school.

The loss of anonymity within the OLP community comes with the territory of being such an important part of the school for so many years. Mrs. Handelsman hopes this will help her in her new role as she works to engage alumnae. “I can hardly go anywhere without running into an OLP alumna. I have run into them at the mall, at the bakery, and even on a shuttle ride from the Volvo dealership!”

There are so many relationships that Mrs. Handelsman has made throughout the years, including her friendships. She met her best friend in sixth grade, and they still meet up for coffee and enjoy the bond of sisterhood they formed at OLP.

When asked what her favorite OLP traditions are, Mrs. Handelsman said, “I really love Spring Sing because it is a vehicle for many girls to shine. I also love leadership installation and the passage of one class to another. This is an opportunity to see incredible young women get up and speak so eloquently about service and what it is means to be a leader.”

As Mrs. Handelsman looks back to her OLP experience, she credits her parents for giving her the opportunity to attend OLP. “It was a sacrifice for my parents to send me to OLP and my four brothers to St. Augustine High School. My mother knew the world was changing and she wanted to make sure I was educated as she saw the value of education. I will always be grateful to them,” Jeanette says.

Although Mrs. Handelsman has contributed so much to OLP throughout the years, she insists that she has received so much more. “I am grateful for my OLP education and everything OLP has given me. Every part of who I am has been influenced by what I’ve learned at OLP, ” she says.

Mrs. Handelsman’s award ceremony will be held on Friday, August 11, 2017 at 1:00 pm during the Hosted Reception for Alumnae Reunion Weekend. Click here to learn more.

Click here to make a gift toward the Alumnae Scholarship Fund in honor of Jeanette (Prantil) Handelsman ’64.