Jane Neuheisel has been the face of Tempe Sister Cities, the Hackett House, Shalimar Country Club, the city’s Oktoberfest, and a force of civic involvement throughout the community.
Proud of her Wisconsin roots, she has kept up with her globetrotting lawyer husband, Dick Neuheisel, in a partnership of 62 years of marriage. Together they were honored with the Don Carlos Humanitarian Award from Tempe Community Council in 2005 and the Spirit of Tempe Award from the Tempe Chamber of Commerce in 2002.
During the Neuheisels’ 57 years in Tempe, they have displayed civic duty, community leadership, and international hospitality.
Jane grew up in the small Wisconsin town of Viroqua “where everyone knew everyone and all four grandparents were just a bike ride away.” She graduated in 1954 as valedictorian of her Viroqua High School class and won several scholarships to the University of Wisconsin, where she majored in journalism and political science. Jane graduated in 1958. At the university, she began dating her kindergarten boyfriend, Dick Neuheisel (who had moved away when they were in first grade). They married in 1958. Some people have called it, “Fun with Dick and Jane.”
Jane worked for the Wisconsin State Historical Society while Dick was in law school. She wrote historical articles and planned events. After Dick graduated from law school in 1961, they spent time in Virginia to complete Dick’s ROTC commitment and then to Fort Ord, California. With two young children, Rick and Nancy, they moved in 1963 to Tempe where Dick was employed as a Business Law and Real Estate law professor at Arizona State.
In Tempe, Jane joined the Junior Women’s League, volunteered for the Salvation Army Auxiliary, Banner Hospital Auxiliary, and ASU Faculty Wives. Then came a life-changing moment, joining Dick in founding Tempe Sister Cities in 1970. In 1973, they established Tempe Oktoberfest as the fund-raiser for Sister Cities. It was modeled after the Oktoberfest they remembered in Wisconsin. The first was held in the old VFW on Apache Boulevard and had a $800 profit. Jane would be Oktoberfest chair for many years. The events would allow hundreds of high school students in Tempe to spend part of their summers in homes with other teens in one of the 11 sister cities, and then the Tempe youth hosted their international “siblings.”
The Neuheisels’ purchased Shalimar Country Club in 1984, and Jane would be a manager for 18 years. By then Rick and Nancy were in college, and Kate and Deborah were still home.
In 1985, Jane successfully applied to the Tempe City Council for the city’s first bakery building, the Hackett House, to be designated headquarters for the growing Tempe Sister Cities program. Now in its 34th year, it has won national awards and is run entirely by volunteers. She founded historic tea parties called “Around the World in Your Own Backyard.” Jane also started “Cuisines of the World” cooking school and an international program for children called “Passport to the World.” After 22 years as director, Jane stepped aside in 2006.
Active for many years in the Tempe Convention and Visitors Bureau (now Tempe Tourism), Jane served as president in 1990. She is a member of Tempe’s new Desert Preservation Commission and keeps busy raising community support for Hayden Butte. With Dick’s retirement from his law practice, Jane has become his personal secretary, especially with Arizona Sister Cities and the Kiwanis Club of Tempe.
The Neuheisels’ son, Rick Neuheisel, followed his football-playing years as a UCLA quarterback by serving as head coach at Colorado, Washington, and UCLA universities and is now a football studio analyst for CBS Sports.
Her four adult children, their spouses, and eight grandsons, and one granddaughter bring untold joy to her full life.
— Lawn Griffiths