Having obtained a doctorate in biology in 1969, Dr. Jeanne Argot knows what it means to be an outlier. “It was a male-dominated field,” she reflected. “Being a woman in biology at the time meant facing a lot of prejudice and sideways remarks.”
After obtaining her doctorate from Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Dr. Argot worked in Pennsylvania at Lebanon Valley College, Annville, before moving to Marion College (now Indiana Wesleyan University) in 1979, where she directed the medical technology program for 21 years. During that time, she regularly traveled and helped lead trips to global extensions of The Wesleyan Church (TWC), learning and teaching alongside schools and hospitals in Haiti, Zambia and other locations. When not traveling or teaching, Dr. Argot played tennis, ran and took pleasure in working in the yard, and served in children’s and youth ministry at College Wesleyan Church (CWC) in Marion, Indiana.
After finishing her time as a professor at Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU), Dr. Argot took her passion for well-curated landscaping to a professional level and worked for IWU facilities for 16 years.
Now 86 and continuing to live in Marion, Dr. Argot formally and informally volunteers around 40 hours per week, serving as a mail carrier and chaplain’s assistant at the local hospital and a hospice visitation volunteer. Dr. Argot also holds other volunteer posts at The Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels and a local health clinic, and is part of a weekly prayer gathering for the City of Marion. She accomplishes all these things with an average of over 18,000 steps per day on her step tracker, which she checks religiously.
Dr. Argot is retired: but her body of work continues in the lives she touches in her various posts in Marion.
Reflecting on her life, Dr. Argot can identify distinct phases of her career: student, professor, facilities employee and now a volunteer. While her jobs have changed, her work remains the same: shepherding others and helping people — especially those in transition — know that God is with them.
Dr. Argot’s students during her time at IWU credit her with inspiring their love for research and biology and developing character in them that has served them well during their own work.
“I was privileged to sit under her teaching in my pre-med classes. She was an enthusiastic teacher, making learning enjoyable and she cared deeply for her students. I’ll never forget the day she rushed into a lab in the science hall to rescue me from a fire I had started in one of the fume hoods!” reflected Dr. Brenda Woods, a former student of Dr. Argot who now practices medicine in Marion. “As she has gotten older, I’ve learned more of her quiet faith. Her morning routine of time alone with God, in the Word and in prayer, has been a special aspect of her life I’ve enjoyed hearing about. I had the privilege of being with her on a trip to La Gonâve, Haiti where she was going to teach nursing students. Although she was 80 years young, she was willing to answer the call to teach in another country with an interpreter translating for her. Her willingness to face this challenge was an encouragement to me that no matter our age, we still have the opportunity to serve our God in ways that may be surprising.”
Far beyond being a professor, however, Dr. Argot continues to disciple others in the work of serving others. Thursday nights, Dr. Argot shares a meal with three young neighbor boys, who greet her as “Auntie Jeanne,” and see her as one of the most important people in their lives.
Sunday afternoons, Dr. Argot visits a local nursing home with a younger church member who —inspired by Dr. Argot — has committed to visiting the sick and praying with them each week.
All of this is done without pretense. Dr. Argot is self-effacing about her ministry in the community and often jokes that she doesn’t volunteer in the church very often at all; but those in the community see Dr. Argot as a representative of the church in the hospitals, nursing homes and neighborhoods she visits.
“As I’ve watched Jeanne serve her community, I have seen her spread joy and the love of God through her consistency, intentionality and care,” reflected Hannah Rowley, a social worker in Marion. “She causes others to feel seen and valued as she goes out of her way to eat a meal with them, visit those at the hospital who are sick, or help landscape a yard.”
Rev. Ethan Linder is the pastor of discipleship at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and contributing editor at The Wesleyan Church’s division of Education and Clergy Development.