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Jewel in Our Crown Stepping Down: Longtime Leader in Sex Education to Retire After 38 Years!

Published: 11.12.12| Updated: 11.12.12

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan (PPWNM) proudly, fondly, and reluctantly bids farewell to Vice President of Education and Leadership Development Janis A. Lunquist, MA, at the end of 2012, after 38 years of service! Lunquist is widely recognized as an expert in sexuality education, even appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and is responsible for starting and growing the education program at Planned Parenthood in Kent County, and later, across west and northern Michigan.

"I don't look at this as retiring," said Lunquist, "I am 'refiring' into a new future and dipping into my bucket list. I do not have specific plans - but I am interested to find out which slip of paper will get pulled out of that bucket first, and what new adventures await!"

Lunquist clocked in as a volunteer at Planned Parenthood Association of Kent County in 1974 and never clocked out. While the affiliate has changed names and grown to include 52 counties, Lunquist's passion for the right of every growing and grown-up person to accurate sexual health information, communication skills, and access to support, has stayed the course.

Her role in the organization has also changed over the years with Lunquist filling positions as communications specialist, media liaison, community presenter, pregnancy counselor, and certified sex educator. In 1978, Lunquist accepted the title of education director and continued to build a nationally recognized Planned Parenthood education and training department, eventually becoming a vice president on the local affiliate's senior leadership team.

Since then, Lunquist has designed and delivered hundreds of learning experiences related to the life-affirming gift of sexuality. She is an accomplished author, creator of several sexual health learning tools, and winner of numerous local and national awards (see details below), "Watching the light bulbs go on in the eyes of young people and parents during lessons is what has kept me motivated in this work over four decades. Knowledge is such a life-changing force," Lunquist said. 

"Jan has been a remarkable asset, not only to this agency, but to the families of our community," said PPWNM President/CEO Katherine Humphrey. "She is recognized nationally for her leadership, creativity and drive; and her commitment to providing people of all ages with access to age appropriate, culturally sensitive, and medically accurate sexuality education.

"Jan has played a unique and very important leadership role within Planned Parenthood. Thanks to her vision, her leadership and expertise, and her tireless hard work, PPWNM's education programs and services are among the best in the country. We will honor the legacy Jan leaves with our continued and unwavering commitment to deliver PPWNM's education and training services with the same standards of excellence our communities have come to know and expect."

Books and learning tools from Jan Lunquist:

Believing that learning must be an engaging and active process and that curriculum must be designed with the audience and its uniqueness ever in mind, Lunquist co-authored the teaching manual, PEER EDUCATION...A Little Help from Your Friends in 1993 and co-edited the 2004 revised edition. She was the editor of the original Ready or Not teen parenting simulation game in 1997 and co-edited the 2011 revised edition. Lunquist edited several learning tools for parents and their children, including Growing Up: A Celebration (for girls) in 1998; Growing Up: A Boy's Guide in 2000; and the Parent Toolkit in 2010. She co-authored, New Expectations: Sexuality Education for Mid and Later Life, 2003 and Older, Wiser, Sexually Smarter: 30 Sex Ed Lessons for Adults Only, 2009. 

Awards and honors for Jan Lunquist:

 November, 2012 - ELO Network, Our Community's Children
    Champion for Quality Award

 March, 2007 - Affiliate Planned Parenthood Leaders in Education (APPLE)
    Mary Lee Tatum Award

 July, 2005 - Grand Rapids Press
    Community Leader Profile

 September, 2001 - Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
    Athena Award nominee

May, 2001 - West Michigan Counseling Association
 Douglas Blocksma Award in recognition of outstanding and dedicated service

February, 1999 - Michigan Comprehensive School Health Association
   Healthy Children Award

 May, 1997 - West Michigan Counseling Association
    Humanitarian Award

 January, 1997 - The Oprah Winfrey Show
    Appearance as family sex education expert

 December, 1993 - Kent County AIDS Council
    Service Appreciation Certificate

 June, 1993 - Planned Parenthood Centers of West Michigan
    High on Teamwork Award for managers

 June, 1993 - Lesbian and Gay Community Network
    Certificate of Appreciation for service

 November, 1992 - YWCA
    Tribute Award for advocacy

 October, 1992 - Affiliate Planned Parenthood Leaders in Education
    Golden Apple Award for education director of the year

  September, 1991 - Michigan Department of Public Health Family Planning
    Award for Professional Service

When asked to choose the award that meant the most in the context of leaving a legacy, Lunquist replied, "The Mary Lee Tatum award is given by Affiliate Planned Parenthood Leaders in Education (APPLE) to the person who most exemplifies the qualities of an ideal sexuality educator. Mary Lee, who died in a car accident in 1991, was a precious friend and exemplar for everything good in human beings. She was described as a 'very sane voice in a wilderness of anxiety, who combined wisdom, strength, compassion and credibility.' She was a trailblazer and consummate professional sexuality educator, and I am so proud to have received an award in her name."

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Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan (PPWNM) provides sexual health care and sexuality education services, and advocates for access to these services for everyone. PPWNM, an affiliate of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, operates health centers in eight Michigan cities, providing medical and education services to thousands of women, men, and teenagers each year. Log on, learn more: ppwnm.org.

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