It’s a Small Westminster World: A Purrfect Reunion in Florida

Alumna Jackie Ott Jaakola and former Vice President of Finance and Business Affairs Fred R. Fisher briefly removed their coronavirus masks to shoot this quick photo last week.

Jackie Ott Jaakola, ’89 ΚΑΘ, had not seen former Vice President of Finance and Business Affairs Fred R. Fisher in more than 30 years. Suddenly both were emotional.

“Many fond memories came back, and some quick stories were shared,” Ott Jaakola wrote Westminster on Sept. 3 of their sentimental reunion in Sarasota, FL. As executive director of Cat Depot in Sarasota, Ott Jaakola paired Fisher and his family with rescue kitty Meow Meow and later shared a few details about her career and Westminster’s impact on her life.

Ott Jaakola wrote that the College provided her with many role models and mentors, including Fisher. Her career in animal welfare began at the St. Louis Zoo and transitioned to a position as director of the Marine Mammal Care Center in Los Angeles, CA, to creating Wallis Anennberg PetSpace in Playa Vista, CA, to her current position as executive director of Cat Depot.

From being a very shy girl from the Midwest who had never been away from home until college, and didn’t come from privilege, to having been featured in People magazine, on the Today show, and on other local channels — both in the L.A. market and now in Sarasota on behalf of animal welfare — I cannot thank Westminster enough for reminding me what empowered me to reach for my goals. Fred’s visit yesterday was an emotional reminder that took me down that memory lane.

Ott Jaakola, a Self-Designed major, wrote that Fisher worked at Westminster from 1978 to 1993. She then further illustrated in her message how both staff and faculty have a profound impact on students at the College. Ott Jaakola closed her letter with the following statement:

“The close-knit college community where I received a first-rate education and individual attention to achieve my goals of helping animals was never lost on me.”

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.