The University of Texas at Austin
  • From fine arts to finance

    By Jolynn Hoffman Free
    Published: May 11, 2011

    Jolynn Hoffman Free

    Jolynn Hoffman Free

    Alumna Jolynn Hoffman Free’s career has led her from the university’s drama department, to a job as supervisor of cultural arts at the City of Austin, to director of development at Laguna Gloria Art Museum and finally into financial services. She is a Registered Investment Advisor, Accredited Investment Fiduciary, senior vice president, and member of the consulting group and the president’s council with RBC Wealth Management in Austin, and serves on numerous boards and foundations.

    The most important lessons I learned at the Department of Theatre and Dance I probably would have learned on my own — eventually — with some work and life experience. I learned the value and the power of human relationships and how to go about understanding and depicting them. I could not have wished for more in a higher education.

    The difference, is that I learned those lessons in the context of an artistic discipline, a collaborative creative process, and great theatrical literature, to say nothing of the brilliant teachers I had. And that proved to be a potent combination of experience and academic rigor that has served me well in a variety of professional settings and in my personal development. For theatre is nothing if not shared human experience, both in it’s making and in it’s realization.

    I always thought I was following a clear path from those first adolescent inklings of the magic of theatre, through an academic and early professional career. Yet, as others view it, it seems strange that a person with a masters degree in theatre should have enjoyed a successful career as a financial advisor. I have often had to explain how that trail of crumbs led me from there to here.

    What I have always said is that I am deeply grateful for the theatre education I received. I cannot imagine that anything would have prepared me better for a career dealing with families and their resources or institutions and their legacies. Let me say that again. While I have sometimes wished for an MBA in addition to my MFA, I have never regretted a moment of my time in the theatre department. Nor have I ever thought that specialized education was wasted on me because I did not ultimately pursue the academic theatre career I had envisioned. Instead, I count my blessings for an education and a career that I value and for the gifts they have both given me, and, I daresay, my clients.

    I recently had the privilege of hearing an iconic high tech executive speak to an intimate audience. “The future belongs not to the math or engineering geniuses,” he said, “but to those with the unique ability to integrate.” I cannot imagine a better argument for arts education. “The integrators, ” I thought, “That’s us.”

    • Quote 2
      Dave said on May 12, 2012 at 5:05 a.m.
      Ms. Hoffman has seriously been an inspiration to us all. Thanks for posting this.
    • Quote 2
      Adam Fish said on July 25, 2011 at 8:10 p.m.
      Three cheers for liberal arts! It's amazing how a liberal arts education can also be a powerful background for careers in business and other disciplines. At the end of the day, liberal arts teaches you to love to learn. Then you can do anything.
    • Quote 2
      Kris said on July 13, 2011 at 11:17 p.m.
      I transitioned from being an economics teacher to a science teacher. I guess it was my desire to "integrate" which allowed me to make such an adjustment. The irony is that there were a lot of lessons I learned as an economist that I could apply to Science.
    • Quote 2
      Karen Ingersoll Norris said on May 13, 2011 at 12:39 p.m.
      I cannot agree with you more. I sometimes marvel at how I went from the UT Drama Dept to teaching Theatre (for only 3 years) then teaching English for another 7 years to working on a Children's Ministry church staff and ultimately to administrating the church database. I am thankful for the time I spent at UT and have felt prepared for every step of my journey.
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