Q&A with Newman President Kathleen S. Jagger

Oct 06, 2021
Kathleen S. Jagger

The Newman Staff Assembly organized a question-and-answer session to learn more about Newman President Kathleen S. Jagger, Ph.D., MPH, on Tuesday, Oct. 5, in celebration of Jagger’s inauguration. The Q&A event was led by Melissa Castle, employment specialist and Staff Assembly president, and included lighthearted questions and tasty root beer floats served by Great Western Dining.

A video recording of the Q&A session with Jagger can also be viewed via the Newman University YouTube channel.

Q: What did your parents do?

Jagger: My father was a corporate attorney and my mother was a singer and actress. After she started having kids and there were a bunch of us, she became a full-time homemaker. So I had the right brain and left brain (style of learning) with my parents. 

Q: Do you have a large family?

Jagger: There were five of us in addition to my mom and dad, and I have two brothers and two sisters. My husband and I are parents to two boys. 

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up? 

Jagger: When I was a kid, I either wanted to be a doctor or a professional dancer. So both (are) very practical choices. I was told I was too tall because at 5’7” — in those days — you could not be a dancer. You had to be 5’2” or 5’3.” So science won out. 

Q: Well we’re benefiting, so it’s good. What kind of child were you? 

Jagger: Well, according to my siblings, I was bossy, sassy, determined. I kind of take charge. I was the oldest daughter and my brother was just a year older. My parents divorced when I was about 10, so my brother and I helped raise the younger siblings. I think they would probably say (I was) bossy.

Q: Someone’s gotta do it! So did that translate to being a good student?

Jagger: I was a ridiculously good student. I loved school. I would read all the time. The culture of my household was very enjoyable, learning in every way from how to climb a tree or sail a boat to learning from a book. So we had great culture at my house of loving learning. 

Q: Who taught you how to ride a bicycle?

Jagger: I ride a lot. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. But I don’t even remember who taught me. I’m guessing it was probably my father, but I was pretty young when I learned how to ride back in those days. I lived in a big Catholic neighborhood and it really was a village raising a village. You could go blocks or even miles from your house on your bicycle. … We took off and went all over the place. Every summer my three best friends from high school would come back home and we’d ride our bikes to the lake and sleep out overnight on the beach, ride our bikes down to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, and then ride home. 

Q: I know I’d rather be on a bicycle than a car any day. So what was your first job? 

Jagger: I worked for a modeling agency when my parents were divorced. My brother’s piano teacher owned a modeling agency and she got all of us five siblings to work for them. So starting at the age of 11, I worked for that agency in Chicago. My youngest brother was the most popular — he did all the Playskool toy covers and Marshfield catalogs and that sort of thing. And one of my jobs was actually doing a musical show for teenagers in Chicago. 

Video Communications Specialist James Sanny records the Q&A session with Dr. Jagger.
Video Communications Specialist James Sanny records the Q&A session with Dr. Jagger.

Q: So if you could play any professional sport, what would it be? 

Jagger: Oh that’s hard — maybe swimming. I’d love biking and I have a race bicycle. Could it be an Olympic sport? I’d like to compete in the Olympics in tae kwon do.

Q: Have you done martial arts and things?

Jagger: Yes. I’m a second-degree black belt.

Q: I didn’t know that. That’s awesome. What’s a talent that you wish you had? 

Jagger: I wish I could fly (planes). Our theme for inauguration is soaring, so of course, I wish I could fly.

Q: Dogs or cats?

Jagger: I’m hyper allergic to cats. We can’t even have dogs in our house. We had cats and dogs on our farm. When my kids were growing up, I liked the animals. I just have bad reactions. People who have dogs who are antisocial, they say, ‘Oh, if you come over and visit our dog will stay in the other room. He doesn’t like people.’ So I go over to this person’s house and sit down and the dog comes over and puts his head in my lap. So animals like me, I just have very bad reactions to them. We’ve had a few pet snakes because I’m not allergic to them. When I was a kid I had a pet rabbit, but I almost got hospitalized as a result of my allergies to that. So I had to give it away.

Q: Do you have a go-to snack when you’re watching a movie? 

Jagger: Popcorn. 

Q: Very conventional. What’s your favorite holiday?

Jagger: It’s a close tie between Christmas and Easter. Christmas was a big time for us when we were kids growing up because we got together with our family members from far away. We also lived on a farm for a long time and raised sheep. So Easter is really a great time when the baby lambs are out. It’s a completely different kind of holiday season on a farm than it is for city folk.

Q: Have you ever met someone famous? 

Jagger: You mean like cousin Mick? 

Q: … (laughs)

Jagger: I have met a fair number of famous people because my sister works in the TV business in Los Angeles. I’ve met several actors and actresses and singers but I don’t know of anybody that was a really big idol of mine. Some football players.

Q: What reality show would you prefer to compete on: “Survivor,” “Big Brother” or “Dancing with the Stars?”

Jagger: Oh, that’s easy. I have never seen “Survivor” or “Big Brother.” So it would have to be “Dancing with the Stars.”

Q: Would you prefer ketchup or mustard? 

Jagger: Depends on what you’re eating, but if I could only have one — mustard.

Q: Have you ever broken a bone? 

Jagger: No. I really tried hard because when I was a kid, my mom had like frequent miles on our orthopedic surgeon’s account because all of us were breaking bones, falling out of trees and doing things. My sister broke her ankle. My brother broke his collarbone, jumping off the television like Superman. My other sister broke her arm. Our surgeon was also an artist so if you broke something and got a cast, you would get a really great picture drawn on the cast. I always thought that was very cool to get one of those casts, so I kept trying to break things but I never did. 

Q: When is bedtime for you? 

Jagger: Well, it depends. I’d say sometime between midnight and 2 a.m.

Q: And then wake-up time is?

Jagger: 5 or 6 a.m.

Q: Do you have a favorite singer or band? 

Jagger: My favorite singer is Rich Mullins. He was a Christian music artist. I could listen to him all day long. Nice, really outstanding… If you like Christian music of any sort, you should know who Rich Mullins is. 

Q: If you could choose any superpower, what would it be?

Jagger: I would really like to be able to read much faster. I’m a very slow and deliberate reader and there are way too many good books out there. If I could read twice as much or three times or 10 times as much, I would be thrilled. 

Q: What’s the last book that you read? 

Jagger: “Why We Swim” by Bonnie Tsui. It was given to me as a Christmas gift by a person that I work with. I’m a water person — I would rather be in, on, around, over or underwater than anywhere else. It was a really great read.

Q: So does that mean you prefer nonfiction to fiction books? 

Jagger: I like both. 

Q: Are you old school and prefer to hold a book?

Jagger: Absolutely. You’ve got to smell the paper. When we used to go on vacations with my children, I would take a sack that was just full of books. Now you can take a Kindle, so you don’t have to take a second book. So there are some advantages. 

Q: Who was your first celebrity crush? 

Jagger: Andy Williams. When I was about 9 or 10, I was hospitalized and kept begging the doctor to let me go out of the hospital because there was a state fair. My grandfather ran the state fair in Illinois at the time, and Andy Williams was playing a concert that night and we were supposed to go. But sadly, I didn’t get out of the hospital. 

Q: Did you see “Titanic” in the theater? 

Jagger: Nope. Not only have I not seen it in the theater, I have not seen it on Netflix or on my television set. I’ve seen snippets of it. 

Q: Do you prefer cake or pie?

Jagger: Pie. Lemon meringue pie is my favorite. 

Q: If you could time travel to the past or the future, which would you choose? 

Jagger: Given that I’m probably not going to live that much longer — I’m not going to be here in a hundred years — I wouldn’t mind going forward and seeing the world that my kids and grandchildren are living in and see how things are changed. I’d also like to go back in the time of Christ and see what the authentic reaction to him really was. I think that would be pretty amazing. 

Q: Do you consider yourself to be a good cook? 

Jagger: Yes. My husband considers me one, too. 

Q: Do you have a signature dish?

Jagger: I’ll cook anything. My mother was an extraordinarily good cook and when I was a kid, we’d have crepes for breakfast on Sunday, she’d make escargot. I really thought everybody ate like we did. 

When my husband and I were kind of getting to know each other, we were at a party and our friends were serving artichokes, which he didn’t have growing up. He had no clue what they were. He wanted to be very cool — he was pulling the leaf off the artichoke, putting the whole leaf in his mouth and chewing on it. So I introduced my husband to a lot of different kinds of foods. My mom made everything from French cooking to standard American fare. Cooking is just chemistry with a little bit more fun because you get to eat it. 

Q: If you had to go through life as a non-human animal, what would it be? 

Jagger: A bird or a fish. I like flying and I like swimming. So maybe —a flying fish! 

Q: Is there a food that you like the least?

Jagger: I don’t eat meat. 

Q: Where do you stand on wearing socks with sandals?

Jagger: Hey, whatever’s comfortable. I don’t do it, but it doesn’t bother me if people do.

Q: Have you ever driven or ridden a motorcycle? 

Jagger: Oh yeah. One of my boyfriends in high school had a motorcycle and my parents were really not happy about it, so I didn’t drive it. But I rode with him on it. 

Q: What’s your favorite costume you’ve worn for Halloween either as an adult or child? 

Jagger: One year my husband and I went as a pair of dice. People kept wanting to roll the dice and that was not fun, but otherwise, it was a good costume. 

Q: Would you rather meet Dwayne the Rock Johnson or Oprah?

Jagger: Oprah. I have not seen her show because I work during the day, however, I am impressed by her ability to communicate with almost anybody. So I think it would be fun to sit down and have a conversation with her.

Q: Do you have a favorite sports team? 

Jagger: Lots of them. The Chicago Cubs, Bears, Indianapolis Colts, University of Kentucky football, basketball. I haven’t got the Kansas thing going yet here. 

My whole social life in Kentucky was around sports because my husband did athletic medicine, so I met a lot of basketball and football players. We knew a lot of those players and then watching them play professional sports — it makes you have lots of favorite teams. A couple of our favorite players — even though I’m a Bears fan at heart — went and played for Green Bay. So I became a big Green Bay fan for a while. 

Q: What is a movie that you can watch over and over again? 

Jagger: I do like a lot of the Star Wars films and I’ve seen a number of them multiple times. My sons and my husband have watched some TV shows and movies so many times that they actually recite the dialogue to one another when one comes on. So it’s kind of intimidating when you’re watching with somebody who’s reciting the dialogue. 

Q: If your husband tells you that he loves you, do you say ‘I love you too’ or do you say ‘I know?’ 

Jagger: (Laughs) I say ‘I love you too.’ That’s a great question. Funny. 

Newman to install Kathleen S. Jagger as its president

Kathleen S. Jagger, Ph.D., MPH, will be officially installed as Newman University’s 12th president during an inauguration ceremony at 2 p.m. on Thursday, October 7, in Performance Hall of the De Mattias Fine Arts Center.

The installation ceremony is the highlight of a week filled with inauguration activities to honor Newman’s fifth female and second laywoman to hold the office of the president at Newman in its 88-year history.

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