Jane Magruder Watkins

August 12, 2019
Jane Magruder Watkins

Jane Magruder Watkins, 82, of Williamsburg, VA, died on August 12, 2019, in Williamsburg.

Funeral services will be held at 10:30 am, October 12, 2019, at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, in Indianola, Mississippi.  Burial will follow at Indianola Cemetery.

Jane was born in Greenwood, MS, to Marjorie Murphy Magruder and Douglas Neil Magruder, Sr., on May 3, 1937.  She went to school in Indianola and Yazoo City, MS.  She attended Mississippi State College for Women and graduated from the University of Hawaii. She received a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Mississippi, a master’s in Organizational Development from American University, and studied at the University of Cambridge, England, where she completed research that led to her textbook: Appreciative Inquiry, Change at the Speed of Imagination.

Jane spent much of her life and work on social justice issues: civil rights in Mississippi and South Africa, economic development programs for women in South Africa, Kenya and many other parts of Africa, India, the Philippines, and Haiti. She worked with non-profits, USAID projects, the Episcopal, Anglican, and Seventh Day Adventists overseas development programs, and taught Organizational Development at Pepperdine University. When she began to use the Appreciative Inquiry methodology, her work spread to include the Dalai Lama’s government in exile, as well as corporate, non-profit, and religious institutions at home and abroad. Jane took great pride in the work of her many students as they took what she taught them into the world to continue her work in their own way.

Jane was awarded lifetime achievement awards by the National Training Labs and the Appreciative Inquiry community for her work in teaching, mentoring, and expanding the reach of the Appreciative Inquiry method.

Jane is preceded in death by her parents, and her first husband, J. Wesley Watkins, III.

Jane is survived by her husband, Ralph Kelly, her children Laurin Wittig and Gordon Watkins, her grandchildren, Samantha Wittig and Alexander Wittig, Wesley Watkins, and Benjamin Watkins, three great-granddaughters and a great-grandson. She is also survived by her siblings, Alice Gordon, Anna Waid, Kem Rutledge, and Neil Magruder, Jr., three nieces, and four nephews.

Memorials may be given to the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry, Champlain University, PO Box 670, Burlington, VT 05402-0670.

The family of Jane Watkins wishes to extend our sincere thanks to the staff and residents at Spring Arbor Senior Living, and At Home Care Hospice, both of Williamsburg, Virginia, for all their loving care of Jane and her family.


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  • October 10, 2019
    Denyse Doerries says:
    Jane changed how I did my work . She helped to create a way of thinking in being in our organization that helped us focus on our strengths and what works . Thank you Jane!

  • October 21, 2019
    John Bennett says:
    Jane helped reshape my life and my work. What a gift to so many around the world!! My thoughts and sympathy are with her family and friends. Ralph, a big hug for you.