By In Stuff

RIP Jane

I never met Jane Bachman Wulf, but — like Jeff — she altered my life. When I was 18 years old and felt like every road was a dead end, I sent out a bunch of letters to a bunch of people who seemed to have answers. I wrote to people in radio, television and newspapers. I wrote to baseball announcers and talk show hosts and I wrote “To whom it may concern” letters to the magazines I loved.

The letters weren’t much. They were basically: “Help. I have no idea what to do with my life. How could I work there?” Some people didn’t write back but more people did than I ever could have imagined.

Jane Bachman Wulf was chief of reporters at Sports Illustrated, the biggest dream place of all, and she wrote back the most comprehensive letter of all.

Jane Letter copy.jpg

I’m sure Jane wrote similar letters — maybe even precisely the same letter — to many young people with crazy dreams of working at Sports Illustrated … but that letter meant something special to me. It was a connection. It was a sign that, yes, this crazy life you dream about might actually be possible. I did write for the campus newspaper. I did hook up with the local Charlotte Observer. I did get a summer internship.

And many many years later, I wrote for Sports Illustrated.

Maybe these things would have happened anyway … but maybe not.

I’ve said it many times … you never know what small gesture might change someone’s life. I obviously have kept Jane’s letter for more than 30 years. When I read it now, the feelings of excitement I got when receiving it come back. I’m sad that I never got the chance to thank her. And even though I never spoke with her, I’ll miss her terribly.


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7 Responses to RIP Jane

  1. Rob Smith says:

    These days most companies don’t even reply to letters and resumes…. even to say thanks, but no thanks. The days of care and concern, or even common courtesy, from a corporate entity are long gone.

    • Sadge says:

      While the world of internet connections has made it easier to get your information out there, the volume has become unmanageable. I love that she responded but these days she’d probably have so many letters of this type that either a form letter would be sent back or nothing at all. It isn’t just that corporations don’t have courtesy, it is just logistically impossible to have personal touches most of the time.

      • invitro says:

        Letter-writing is a funny thing. I’d guess that SI didn’t get a whole lot of letters from 18-year-olds, even in 1985, and as you say, I’m sure the number of emails they get of the type of Joe’s letter dwarfs the number they got back then. I know the idea of sending a company a letter like this one was far from my mind when I was 18. (What was close to my mind was girls. When I was 17, in 1988, I sent letters to five girls I had met, but mostly barely talked to, in a summer college camp. All five sent fairly long replies, astonishing me, and one became a good friend in college a year later. The power of the pen and paper!)

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  3. Frank says:

    What a great letter, Joe. Thanks for sharing.

    I had a similar experience when I was looking for a job in the early ’80s. A gentleman whose firm wasn’t hiring responded to my job application and invited me in to talk to him. He didn’t have to do that, but he spent 45 minutes with me in his office, going over the list of places where I had applied, and telling me who he knew at each place. At the end, he told me to go knock on doors. I did go knock on doors, and one of those doors opened. I got hired there, and met my wife there (we’ve been married 29 years).

    I know I couldn’t have been the only kid to whom this gentleman was so generous. He never knew what an impact he had on my life. I wasn’t gracious enough to tell him so before I learned of his passing. I did send a letter to his firm when I learned that he passed. But ever since his wonderful gesture, I’ve tried to “pay it forward” with kids looking for jobs, and I’ve tried to remember to tell people when they’ve said/done important things in my life.

  4. I like looking through an article that can make men and women think.

    Also, many thanks for permitting me to comment!

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