By Luis Ruuska
Originally published in Tennessee Law, Spring 2016
[pullquote-right]”Financial aid can be hard, but the challenges have been fun and rewarding. I like puzzles, and getting all of this stuff to work together is like fitting the pieces of a puzzle together.”[/pullquote-right]
Janet Hatcher, interim director of admissions and financial aid, has been with UT Law for thirty-six years, making her one of the college’s most familiar faces.
A Knoxville native who grew up in Alcoa, Hatcher began working at the college in 1979 as a temp and was later hired full-time as a receptionist. A few months later she was moved to the Office of Admissions, which later became the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, where she has spent the bulk of her career as the financial aid coordinator. In 2015, Hatcher was promoted to her current position, where she aids in recruiting qualified students to join UT Law’s ranks.
In her more than three decades of service, Hatcher says the college’s atmosphere has transformed in a variety of ways. “It’s warmer, friendlier, and more community-oriented than it was when I first began working,” says Hatcher. “The students are happier, and the faculty and the students are more open and receptive with each other, too.”
Throughout her time at the college, Hatcher says the lifetime connections she has made with students have resulted in some of her fondest memories. “The connections that I’ve made have been nice and now you see the kids of some of the alumni coming through law school, which is rewarding because you see the learning continuing on,” she says.
Students have also remembered Hatcher fondly since graduating from the college. Ronald Attanasio (’85) recalls that Hatcher’s support was critical during his time in law school. “For the two-and-a-half years I was in law school, and to this day, Janet has been a friend, a counselor, and a staunch supporter,” says Attanasio. “Now, thirty years later, I still enjoy the practice of law and verily believe that I have made a difference for at least one particular non-profit and in the lives of many others—and without Janet, I simply would not have been in a position to have done so.”
[pullquote-left]”Now you see the kids of some of the alumni coming through law school, which is rewarding because you see the learning continuing on.”[/pullquote-left]
Stephanie L. Slater (’90) says she will never forget when Hatcher came to her aid in the weeks leading up to her second year of law school. A system error had caused Slater to be incorrectly labeled as an undocumented student and also listed a missing transcript from a university she had not attended, which caused her financial aid package to be rescinded. “[I was] distraught and dazed…Fortunately I ran into Janet Hatcher,” Slater says. “She calmed me down, sat me in a chair, and in one phone call cleared up the whole mess. All these years later, I have not forgotten what she did for me that day. The college is very fortunate to have her.”
Hatcher says the highlight of her career has been developing relationships with students past and present, like Attanasio and Slater. “I’m not in it for myself; I like helping the students. Financial aid can be hard, but the challenges have been fun and rewarding,” she says. “I like puzzles, and getting all of this stuff to work together is like fitting the pieces of a puzzle together. When I can see the kids walk across the stage at graduation, that makes it all worthwhile. That’s what it’s all about.”