In the early 1980s, Susan Jackson of Lakewood wasn’t interested in marriage, but longed for a child. Although single-parent international adoptions were rare in those days, within four years she adopted two little girls from India. Jennifer graduated in May 2004 from Washington State University, and Krissy will complete her WSU degree in December.
In a five-page letter of nomination, Jennifer successfully spelled out why her mother should be honored as 2004 WSU Mom of the Year last spring.
Jackson worked relentlessly for 18 months to be placed on the waiting list for a child. “While many women would have given up, my mother persevered, passed every test, home study, and credit check,” Jennifer wrote.
Jennifer was born August 28, 1982, in Calcutta. With few options available to her, the birth mother abandoned the premature child in a birthing center. The tiny 2.2-pound infant was found there in a shoebox on a shelf. After months in an orphanage, she was nursed back to health and finally put up for adoption.
“From the moment my mother picked me up out of the travel bassinet [at Sea-Tac International Airport November 16, 1982, following Jennifer’s 20-hour flight], we bonded for life,” the daughter wrote in her letter of nomination.
Jackson quit her job to take care of the baby. To honor her daughter’s Indian heritage, she gave her the middle name Anjali-which means “hands folded in prayer.”
Jennifer survived open-heart surgery a month before her first birthday. When she was four, her mother decided to expand the family. She received the dossier of a four-year-old girl living in a Madras orphanage. A caseworker explained the girl showed signs of physical abuse and tried to dissuade Jackson from adopting such a high-risk child.
Jackson listed to her heart instead. “I said phooey,” says Jackson. “She had no . . . birth date, no parents, no memory. I said, ‘Send her home to me.’ “Jackson adopted Sudha, and named her Kristin Sudha. When both daughters were second-graders, their mother was diagnosed with end-stage breast cancer. She made arrangements for the girls’ guardianship, and underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy. She has been cancer-free for 14 years.
“My mother is a unique woman,” Jennifer wrote. “She never married so she could focus all her attention on us.”
Susan Jackson (’67 English) is an English as a Second Language para-educator at a middle school, where she works with at-risk and immigrant children.
After completing a degree in communications in May, Jennifer joined The Seattle Times as a copy editor. Krissy is majoring in secondary education with an emphasis on English as a second language and social studies.
Both sisters want to adopt children of their own from India someday, Jennifer says, so “we can give a child the same gifts that our mother has bestowed on us.”
Other Mom-of-the-Year finalists were Marie Cochran, Pullman, nominated by her daughter, Katie; Chris Sodorff (’73 Educ.), Pullman, nominated by her daughter, Emily; and Jane Winterfield, Enumclaw, nominated by her daughter, Stacy.