McGowan moves to part-time role after 50 years with H.A. Dorsten



MINSTER – After 50 years of full-time service at H.A. Dorsten, Office Manager Jan McGowan will move to part-time work.

McGowan joined H.A. Dorsten straight out of high school in 1971 and has been with the company ever since. She enjoyed her office courses in high school, and her teacher arranged for a work-study program with another local company. But after she graduated, they had a freeze on hiring.

McGowan heard about an opening at H.A. Dorsten and leapt at the opportunity.

“I liked the variety of work,” McGowan said. “At the time, I was taking daily shorthand, typing letters and purchase orders, and doing payroll, accounts receivable, accounts payable.”

McGowan also worked side-by-side with Vera Dorsten, wife of company founder Harold Dorsten, who is current CEO Ron Dorsten’s mother and President Sean Dorsten’s grandmother.

“I have worked with Jan for 31 years,” Sean Dorsten said, “and she has known me for 49 years. I can’t begin to even describe how much she’s helped us over the years. She started out doing payroll, then became our head secretary and then took over our entire payroll and benefits work. Her knowledge of every part of the job she does is extremely valuable.”

Few know that her nickname, Jan, has its origin in her first day at H.A. Dorsten.

“Before I started working here,” she said, “I was always Janice to everyone. The first day, Ron asked me if I preferred Janice or Jan, and I told him I had no preference – and I became Jan here from day one. Even my immediate family now calls me Jan.”

In the early days at H.A. Dorsten, the most challenging days were bid days.

“We didn’t have computers or fax machines,” McGowan said. “All material suppliers and subcontractors bidding on the job would call their bid into our office. Vera Dorsten and I would write their bid word for word and run it into the conference room where our estimators would be compiling all bids received. It would get quite hectic.”

Everything for the bid process was done on paper, with ledgers for everything.

“Our calculators were these huge contraptions,” McGowan said. “When we got computers, I didn’t understand how they would work for documents or accounting.”

The day she received her first computer, she looked at Sean Dorsten and said, “I don’t know how to do this.”

He gave her a puzzled look and said, “The keyboard is the same as your typewriter.”

She said it was a real revelation.

“I’m now quite proficient with the computer,” McGowan said with a laugh.

McGowan’s contributions to H.A. Dorsten over the last half century are too numerous to count, but her skills in shorthand, organization, letter writing and attention to detail have helped create the company as it is today.

As McGowan reduces her hours, she intends to spend more time with her husband, three sons, two daughters-in-law and six grandchildren. She enjoys quilting, gardening, bike riding and seeing live bands.

McGowan also trains dogs to compete. She has a Weimaraner who just turned a year old and is showing him to earn his championship title.

“Once we earn that title,” she said. “We’ll go on to do obedience work and possibly will compete for obedience titles.”

When asked what advice she would give to her colleagues at H.A. Dorsten after 50 years of service, McGowan said, “Speak up if things need to be changed. Sean respects your views and suggestions.”