Jackson's PFW journey continues to help university grow
Diana Jackson, Special Projects Manager-Business Manager; Director of the PFW Foundation
The front of Diana Jackson’s three-drawer filing cabinet is covered by souvenir magnets representing the places she or her family members have visited. There’s room to fill about two more rows before she intends to retire in about three years. She’s already thinking about adding another magnet from a fall cruise to Alaska to celebrate her 35th anniversary with her husband, Dale.
“They just make me happy to look at them and remember,” Jackson said.
Her career at Purdue University Fort Wayne has also been a unique and memorable journey as Jackson is one of its success stories, holding numerous positions over her 34-plus years here. She's currently director of the PFW Foundation, special projects manager for the vice chancellor for financial aid and administrative affairs, and business manager for the chancellor, development, and communications and marketing.
That’s a full curriculum vitae, and Jackson admits she couldn’t keep everything straight without the help of longtime co-worker Anna Martin. Jackson emphatically says she has the best business assistant on campus.
Together, they are a formidable team, working instinctively, often without express communication. They know how things work and what needs to be done, and their efforts reach all over campus. As an example, Jackson played a significant role in working through the financial side of the university’s realignment five years ago. She also stepped up to help fulfill the responsibilities of the vice chancellor for financial aid and administrative affairs the year the university searched to fill that vacancy.
“Diana is such an important part of the success of this university,” said Glen Nakata who became the vice chancellor for financial and administrative affairs prior to the fall 2021 semester. “Her years of service have helped PFW to become the campus it is today. She has an incredible amount of institutional knowledge and has always had a customer service-focused work ethic. She has taken on tasks when called and is never afraid to be honest and fair in her opinions. We are very fortunate to have Diana Jackson as part of the Purdue University Fort Wayne family.”
With a business degree from Purdue, Jackson started at the university in 1988 in the IU School of Medicine before becoming an account clerk for continuing studies. Soon after, the university helped her and her family by allowing her to work from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. so she could be home when her three kids arrived from school. Her twin sons, Andrew and Tyler, eventually graduated from PFW and her daughter, Samantha, from Purdue.
When she returned to full-time after her children were in middle school, Jackson became business manager, which led to more challenging projects—and to promotions. Her supervisors knew the projects would get done and knew she would work with departments to accomplish what they needed, though maybe not in the exact fashion they envisioned.
“You know what, that’s exactly what we’re supposed to be here for,” Jackson said. “Our role as a business manager is not to stand in the way, but to try to help the areas we support get done what they need to do.”
Ironically, she’s a stickler for administrative protocol, and loves being busy and dealing with numbers, but as one of six children, her independent personality comes across as strong but fair.
“Every time I think I’ve tried to tamp it down, no matter what I try, I just come out,” Jackson said with a laugh. “It’s crazy how what you are is what you are. Hopefully, they don’t ever think I’m mean. I’m not afraid to ask questions and not push back, not to be mean but to understand. They’ve always allowed me to be me throughout this.”
That’s not a problem as Jackson is widely respected for her fairness and ability to help others grow. She’s outgoing, energetic, and a little bit ambitious, but oh, so friendly and encouraging.
“Diana has been a phenomenal mentor to me over the years,” said Allyson Mills, associate vice chancellor for financial and administrative affairs. “With almost 35 years of institutional knowledge, there is always something that I can learn from her. She has a remarkable work ethic and is highly dependable.
“One of the things I admire the most is that she isn’t afraid to be upfront and honest on whatever matter is being addressed, whether the information she has to share is positive or negative. Of course, most of us don't want to have to deliver bad news, but transparency–especially in a finance role–is critical to maintaining trust with campus stakeholders. She is truly an asset to this campus!”
Jackson’s stories are quick to mention all those who came before and whom she credits with helping her. Someday, when she’s retired and out exploring places to gather new magnets, others will do the same about her.
“They pulled me and pushed me to do more than maybe I saw in myself because they cared enough and saw something in you that maybe you didn’t see in yourself,” Jackson said. “What’s not to love? Look at all that I got to do, and I never got bored. We’re ever evolving because we have to because our students do. Luckily, we had the leadership that recognized it.”
Maybe the best thing to say about Jackson is she cares so much about what she does and the people she works with. She wants the best for them and the university.
“I love the people here who are wonderful and have become like family to me,” she said. “I love what this place stands for. How could you not love working at a place that changes people’s lives for the better? I’m very lucky to be able to play my small part in it.”