The Best in You

Three ladies grace the cover of our magazine this month.   You probably know at least one of them. In addition, as you will soon read, we chose them because they are beautiful inside and out, they have accomplished much and they feel good about themselves.  Combining successful careers with happy homes, they have created a balance that works for them. And even if you think you know them pretty well, we're about to reveal some interesting facts about our Best In You Ladies for 2002.

Jeanne Swanner Robertson

Despite that drawl, Jeanne was born in Boston Massachusetts during the war to Alabamians Jim and Cora Swanner. Her parents later owned Green's Fuel Gas Company in Graham and her father chaired the local school board. Jeanne reached her 6'2" stature at age 13. She averaged more than 30 points on the basketball team her junior and senior years at Graham High School.

Jeanne earned the crown of Miss Graham, Miss North Carolina, and then Miss Congeniality in the Miss America Pageant. During her reign as Miss North Carolina, she found her life's calling. She traveled around her native state for one year, speaking at pageants, and addressing civic clubs and corporations. After earning a degree from Auburn University, she taught physical education for nine years. But in 1976, she stopped teaching and entered professional speaking full time. A humorist, her rise to the top of her career has been nothing short of phenomenal. Honors include the golden Gavel Award, Auburn's Woman Entrepreneur of the Year 2000, 2001 North Carolinian of the Year and the top honor in her profession, the Cavett Award. Now after 38 years, she is positioning herself to transition into an entertainer for motorcoach travelers.

Jeanne travels 10 months a year but maintains close contact with her family and friends back in Burlington. She and husband Jerry have one son, Beaver, who married Dayna Long and their are now two wonderful grandsons.

We asked the cover ladies the following questions to learn even more.

What are the hardest obstacles you've had to overcome and how did you do it?

JR My hardest obstacle and something I still have a problem with is "promoting" myself career wise. It is extremely uncomfortable for me to do many of the things professional speakers have to do to become known in the national meetings industry. When I realized I was losing business to other speakers while waiting to be "discovered," I had to find ways to self-promote that were comfortable to me. A compromise came into play. I certainly do market myself, heavily in fact. But I call what I do "Marketing your Mama taught you." I work not to be obviously pushy, but pushy in a Southern, down home manner. It seems to work.

What are your fears?
JR There is no official retirement age in my profession. I have seen friends accept speaking invitations when they were no longer in top form, thus disappointing the audiences and meeting planners. My greatest fear is that my need to speak (i.e., "ego") will get in the way and I won't stop booking speeches when it's time to stop. I hope that is a long time from now.

What brings you joy?
JR Doing something nice for someone who least expects it and not telling anybody else about it.

Tell us about an experience that made you grow.
JR In my work, I am on stage by myself and in total control of what I say and do. I like it that way. I also run my own business. Twice in the last five years I have taken time off from speaking to appear in plays produced by CenterStage Productions to raise money for the Alamance County Arts Council. Plays are a total team effort. I found myself unable to ad-lib, change the script and counting on others. Things as simple as everyone showing up on time for rehearsal and learning their lines became paramount. I was like a fish out of water but it was good for me to be in these situations and be reminded that everyone doesn't run by my objectives or my clock. Both experiences were extremely worthwhile.

What do you do to take care of yourself?
JR Walk. It's the only sport I can do in conjunction with my travel schedule. No equipment except tennis shoes. No making court reservations. No finding an opponent. I just walk. It makes me get outside and see parts of this great country I could not see in a hotel room Also, it keeps me in shape. In the past year I've even walked in two marathons.

What is your favorite book?
JR Any book by humorist H. Allen Smith. I collect old humor books and actually read and study them. He was one of the best.

What is your favorite dessert?
JR My Mother-in-law Ruby Robertson's Heaven's Delight cake.

What is your favorite article of clothing?
JR A ten-year-old blue terrycloth bathrobe that goes to the floor, even on me. It's huge. When I have it on, I feel like I'm wrapped up in a towel. It's also hideous. My husband has hidden it twice and buried it once but I've found it all three times.

                                    - Karen Carrouth, Editor
                                      City-County Magazine