Shared Memories

Marty White '74

She mentored me

Jean was a mentor for the early HMC women. She made sure we knew we had someone we could talk to. I will always be grateful for Jean and Joe’s support while I was there and every time I saw them after I graduated. I will miss them both.

Jonathan Mersel '75


Jean and Joe Platt were an inseparable pair of a great team. Each supported the other in creating the wondrous place that Harvey Mudd College became. Jean was a tremendous person in her own right – sharp, gracious, attentive, and fun loving. I have written of Joe previously. Together they embodied the fullness of that nonlinear life showing that indeed the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Each are sorely missed individually. Their joint passing sadly marks the end of an era.

Cliff Miller


Sad news. Huge contributor to HMC’s founding and success. Always there with a smile and solution to the challenge at hand. Great lady and true Mudder .

Carolyn Dondero

Extended family

Jean created a world of flowers, books, beauty, fine food, genteelness, nature, family, and fun. She shared her vision of HMC as a vehicle to change the world. Jean is in our hearts forever.

Bob Klitgaard


Jean always had the buoyancy of a person who loved life and whom life loved back. She was a blessing to Joe, their family, and all who knew her.

Jack Cuzick '70

HMC Student and distingushed alumni

Always remember her presence at events and around the college as a caring person interested in student needs. This was further apparent in my visits to HMC in more recent years when Joe was not well, and she was most gracious in talking to alumni.

Joni Moody


I recall one very hot graduation ceremony that inspired most of the audience to scramble for shade. Jean was sitting in the front row, and surely was as eager to escape the heat as the rest of us. There she stayed, however, until the ceremony was complete. The plastic bottle of water placed under her chair remained untouched. She was a smart and professional woman, with unimpeachable values, who taught by example. I am so fortunate to have been among her students.

Kat Winner '00

I cherish many special places from my Mudd years, but my all time favorite was the botanical gardens. Thank you Jean for pushing through a project that so many students (especially us biology majors) have & will continue to benefit from.

While the news of her passing is, of course, sad… I am also inspired to celebrate the AMAZING heart and soul of a woman who dedicated so many years to creating a campus environment that was INCLUSIVE to all.

Thoughts & Prayers to all her family.
-Kat winner (west dorm)

Jean Strauss

Former HMC first lady

When I heard the news about Jean, my first thoughts were of Joe. Six months ago, it was the other way around. I have never been able to separate my thoughts about them. When I think of Jean, I think of Joe, and vice-a-versa. They were that kind of couple. I was not surprised that they left this earth in the same year. It seems impossible that they are both gone, because they were both so engaged, so ‘here’, so ever present.

Jean was my role model, my mentor, my friend. I have missed her enormously in the years since we left HMC. She not only set the bar high for all first spouses of Mudd – she set it high for any presidential spouse anywhere. I can’t think of another first lady that accomplished as much as Jean. She helped build a campus from a pile of Claremont potatoes, and then stayed around to help it thrive. She hosted countless events, attended anything where she could be of help. During the nearly ten years Jon and I were at Mudd, Jean attended almost every Saddlerock, every ARCS, every Commencement. She didn’t do this to get a free meal. She did this because she knew it mattered. She knew it made a difference. One of the last events where I spent some time with Jean was the 50th anniversary of HMC in 2006. It was not lost on me then (or now) that she was also on hand when the college opened its doors for the first time.

It is impossible to quantify how much her steadfast dedication to Harvey Mudd played a role in the amazing trajectory of the institution. Obviously, many key people helped the college plant strong roots back in the late fifties, early sixties, from faculty and staff who dedicated their lives to the mission, to the students who chose Mudd’s unique program, and who would define what a Mudder could be.

Joe Platt stands above them all, as the thoughtful and joyful leader who set the whole Mobius strip in motion, with a guitar in one hand, and a heavy dose of wisdom and imagination in the other. But he could never have done it without Jean. She was not only his chief confidante and wise counsel, she was his best friend. Together, they mutually chose to nurture the college and its people for the rest of their lives.

Jean was so many things, to so many people. In addition to being the wife of a college president, she was a mathematician, a researcher, a gardener, a silversmith, a trustee, a mother, a grandmother. Ann and Beth and their incredible families are a testament to a great gene pool, and parents who had a zest for fun and hard work.

Jean could be intimidating, because she set such a high standard for herself and others. She was also incredibly kind and thoughtful. She was a pioneer who never sought the limelight, but deserved so many accolades. If I mourn today, it is because those of us who had the privilege of knowing Jean and Joe, know what those who follow will be missing. A new generation of Mudders will never know what scientific rock stars Harvey Mudd College’s founders were. Those of us who are old enough, and lucky enough, know what’s been lost, as we cherish the memories of these two remarkable human beings.

Many people make up the wonderful Mudd constellation – but no stars will ever shine brighter than those of Joe and Jean. Godspeed. What a wonderful life. What treasures!

Liz Baughman

HMC staff

Jean was always right at Joe Platt’s side during and after his tenure as President at HMC. They were an unbeatable team and the foundation that cemented and grew the College to all it is today and will be in the future. Jean made sure the students were well taken care of during their time with the College – a substitute mother – so to speak. She cared for the students, while at the same time ensuring they stood on their own and left HMC well prepared for their future.

Maria Klawe

HMC president

I cherish the friendship I had with Joe and Jean Platt. When Nick and I arrived in Claremont in 2006, Joe and Jean were so gracious to us. I will always remember sitting on the Platt’s living room floor, singing, clapping and enjoying each other’s company. I would come to realize that this hospitality had been extended to many before us. During her 20 years as HMC’s first lady, Jean played host for freshman dinners, faculty teas, trustee receptions and many more events integral to the College’s early development. In addition to her contributions to the College, Jean was energetic and faithful community volunteer. I know that I join many others in thanking Jean for all that she has done for Harvey Mudd College and the Claremont community.