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Janet "Jan" Kruh

Janet Jan Kruh, 93, a former president of the USD383 Board of Education, a pioneer in distance learning for Kansas universities, and an accomplished community volunteer, died Tuesday at Meadowlark Hills Retirement Community.

She was born July 27, 1926, in Eureka, Kansas, where her grandparents came to Greenwood County as early settlers. Her paternal grandfather, George King Jackson, was an early developer of ranching, oil production, and business in Greenwood County. Her father, Elwin Jackson, a master auto mechanic, and her mother, Sidney Devier Jackson, a department store financial officer, raised her in El Dorado and Augusta, Kansas. In 1944, she graduated from Augusta High School, where she was a schoolmate of President Barack Obama’s grandmother. She attended Christian College (now Columbia College) in Columbia, Missouri, where she earned an associate of arts degree. She then enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis, where she earned a bachelor of arts in chemistry in 1948 and a master of arts in psychology in 1949. There, she met Robert F. Kruh in calculus class, and they were married in 1948.

After graduation, she worked in St. Louis as a high school science teacher and staff counselor at Washington University, where her husband earned a doctorate in chemistry. The couple moved to Greencastle, Indiana, where her husband was a professor of chemistry at DePauw University, and then to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he joined the chemistry faculty at the University of Arkansas and later served as dean of arts and sciences. In Fayetteville, she worked as a public school psychologist and as a psychology instructor at the university.

In 1967, she and her family moved to Manhattan when her husband was appointed as dean of the graduate school at Kansas State University. Her commitment to public service culminated in her election to the USD383 Board of Education in 1972. She served as board president in 1974-75, spearheading significant financial improvements in the school system during her tenure.

In 1976, she continued her professional career as the director of Kansas’ educational Telecommunications Network (TELENET), predating the Internet and video networking. Based at K-State, she created an upscale audio network with 37 locations statewide that provided off-campus courses offered by the six Regents’ universities in Kansas. Under her direction, the state became a national leader in distance education. The network provided an easily accessible pathway for thousands of professionals to earn master’s degrees for professional advancement; it offered additional programs, including a high school enrichment series, funded by the National Science Foundation, that featured instruction by Nobel laureates and other noted authorities. She was a presenter at national distance-learning conferences, and she served as coordinator of the National Teleconferencing Peer Support Group. She retired in 1992.

She was a lifelong community volunteer, most avidly with the League of Women Voters, which she joined in 1944, three years before she was eligible to vote. She later served as LWV chapter president in Fayetteville and Manhattan. In retirement, she served as a policy advocate with Kansas AARP, working with utility and health-care issues; through legislative testimony, she helped defeat an effort to defund the Citizens Utility Ratepayer Board. In her AARP role, she also served on its State Legislative Committee, and she coordinated its lobbying efforts in Kansas’ then-Second Congressional District.

She was a longtime member of the Kansas Judicial Selection Panel for District 21, which placed Meryl Wilson, David Stutzman, and Sheila Hochhauser on the local bench. A lifelong Lutheran, she was a member of First Lutheran Church in Manhattan.

She is survived by her husband; a son, Lindsay Kruh, of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and a daughter, Nancy Kruh, and her spouse, Sarah Wilke, of Nashville, Tennessee.

The family requests memorial donations be made to the local chapter of the League of Women Voters through my.lwv.org/kansas/manhattanriley-county or by mail at P.O. Box 835, Manhattan, KS 66505. No service is planned at this time.

Online condolences may be left for the family through the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home website at www.ymlfuneralhome.com.

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