Jean (Hoover '47) Triplett

Lifetime Service Award 2012
The award recognizes an individual who, inspired by personal faith to make a difference in the lives of others, has dedicated his or her life to heartfelt service to people, community or church.

Jean TriplettJean (Hoover '47) Triplett's longtime commitment to social justice and service was stoked by a defining experience shortly after her Bluffton graduation in 1947.

With a new bachelor's degree in English to her name, the Rittman, Ohio, native went to a Cheyenne Indian reservation in Montana and taught young children for a year.

"They were impoverished children, but she said they were just as intelligent and lively and fun-loving as any kids she knew when she was growing up," says her son, Tomm, whose mother died in May 2012 at age 85. "That sparked her interest in social justice," and it grew, he adds, "from people she met along the way who, through no fault of their own, would be discriminated against in our society."

Returning from Montana in 1948, she married M. Morris Triplett—whom she had met in college—and embarked on decades of Bluffton-based service, especially to the Presbyterian church, the community and her alma mater. For all of that, she earned the university's Lifetime Service Award, accepted in her honor by Tomm and his brother and sister, Timm and Tish '84.

Morris Triplett's family attended Bluffton Presbyterian Church, which Jean also joined and, over time, served as a Sunday school teacher and elder, among other positions. But her church work didn't stop there.

She became involved with the Maumee Valley Presbytery—the Presbyterian body that covers northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan—which led to activity on the national level and beyond.

In June 1987, she and her husband were appointed as emissaries of the presbytery on a Volga River "Peace Cruise," an effort to bring together citizens of the United States and the then-Soviet Union. Pointing out that the Bluffton and Mennonite emphasis on peace had impacted his mother, Tomm Triplett says a positive experience on the cruise left his parents convinced that "this is how we need to counteract the talk about war, on a one-to-one, human level."

Two years later, Jean Triplett was elder commissioner from the presbytery to the annual meeting of the General Assembly of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). And in 1991, she was elected to the executive committee of the General Assembly Council, where she served for two years. She was also vice moderator and moderator of the presbytery in 1990 and 1991, respectively; spent one year as the Ohio Council of Churches president; and was active in the Presbyterian Synod of the Covenant, which represents churches and presbyteries in Ohio and Michigan.

In Bluffton, her community involvement included heading the village's centennial celebration in 1961, helping establish its Senior Citizens Center and, more recently, serving on its visioning committee. The Bluffton Lions Club's 1996 Citizen of the Year, she also boarded several individuals and families in her home at various times; was a substitute teacher in Bluffton schools; and supported the women's athletics program at the university and was president of its Alumni Association.

In addition, Triplett and her husband created a charitable foundation in memory of Morris Triplett's father, R.L., who founded Bluffton's former Triplett Corp. in 1904, and his mother, Etta L., who started the home economics department at then-Bluffton College. Chaired by Morris Triplett until his death in 1996, and then by Jean, the foundation has contributed more than $100,000 to Bluffton organizations, including Bluffton Hospital, Mennonite Home Communities of Ohio, Bluffton Family Recreation, the Bluffton Child Development Center and the community food bank, as well as Bluffton Presbyterian Church and the university. The foundation has also recognized individuals for their contributions to local quality of life, and may do so again in the future, notes Tomm Triplett, who became chair after his mother's death.

"She was an ideas person," he says. "She got people excited about a lot of different things."