In the Beginning
Jane attended Fargo South High School, where she played violin in the school orchestra and captained the debate team. She still credits Marge Haggart, her high school debate coach, for her forensic skills. Her senior year, she won the North Dakota state debate championship and was runner-up in the Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow contest. During summers, she wrote hail insurance for her father’s farmer customers.
After graduating in 1971, Jane went East to attend college at Brown University in Providence, R.I. Few people in Fargo had heard of Brown; few people in Providence had heard of Fargo. Jane majored in political science and made money typing – and editing – term papers for fellow students. One of her college roommates, Ina (Friedlander) Trugman, now a Bay Area lawyer, remains one of her best friends.
Jane was set to attend law school at the University of Michigan until she was admitted off the waiting list to Harvard Law School. She took classes from famous professors such as Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor, but her favorite teacher was Philip Areeda, the model for Professor Kingsfield in the movie “The Paper Chase.” Her time spent in Professor Areeda’s class taught her how not to be intimidated by authority.
At law school, Jane met her future husband, Bob Sullwold, the son of a newspaperman from Toledo, Ohio. She had envisioned beginning her legal career on Wall Street; Bob convinced her to try Montgomery Street instead. She went to work as an associate at the San Francisco firm then known as McCutchen, Brown, Doyle & Enersen in 1979.
Jane was randomly assigned to a partner who specialized in litigation involving suits brought by workers exposed to asbestos. Jane spent the next 25+ years taking depositions and participating in settlement conferences in asbestos cases. She owes her familiarity with pulmonary medicine and the building trades to those days. She also learned the truth of the old adage, "A good settlement is one where everyone comes away slightly dissatisfied."
During her litigation career, Jane formed fast friendships with a group of women that called itself the “Asbestos Girls,” including Madeline Buty, Robby Rendahl, Margaret Baker and Ingrid Campagne, who still keep in touch even as they have gone their separate ways.
Ultimately, Jane tired of big-firm law practice and decided to work on a “contract” basis for her former employer and, later, for her husband, who had started his own San Francisco firm. She retains her active status as a member of the State Bar of California.
And then she found golf.
Jane’s father played the game but, growing up, her time spent on the golf course consisted primarily of maintaining the scoreboard for an annual amateur tournament. She learned to play after graduating from law school, but only played on vacations, and never really improved. In 1993 she discovered the Chuck Corica Golf Complex, and found out she could come out by herself and be matched up with other players as soon as there was an opening -- which in those days meant waiting an hour or more. She quickly got addicted.
Through people she played with, such as John Park, Jane also got to know the City of Alameda, whose tree-lined streets and neighborly people reminded her of her hometown. When she and Bob decided to move from the Oakland hills, she focused the search on the Island. They ended up buying a house in the Fernside district in 1998.
Jane continued to play golf regularly despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001. She became active in the Alameda Women’s Golf Club, which led her to join other women’s golf clubs in the area. Having learned to use a computer program that sets up golf tournaments, she became so adept at designing special scorecards that other clubs began to clamor for her services in creating their tournament materials.
In 2004, the AWGC celebrated its 75th anniversary with a party attended by Mayor Beverly Johnson. Jane invited Mayor Johnson to play golf in her foursome at the AWGC guest day the following week. Midway through the round, Mayor Johnson told Jane there was an opening on the Golf Commission and asked if Jane would be interested. Jane said that she was, and the Mayor appointed her (together with Bill Schmitz and Ray Gaul) in 2005. (In light of subsequent events, it will be up to Ms. Johnson to say whether she regrets her decision to appoint Jane). Her fellow Commissioners elected Jane chair in 2007. She then fought a four-year battle to preserve the heritage of the Golf Complex and to secure its future.
Unlike some, such as Bill Clinton, who at an early age decided he wanted to be President. Jane never has had political aspirations. She was flattered when, during the golf course battles, friends and even strangers suggested she consider running for Council. Over the objections of her husband, she decided to take the plunge because she truly believes she can accomplish something for the city that she chose to be her home and in which she will live out the rest of her days.
(c) 2012 Jane Sullwold for City Council