Her two preschoolers burst upstairs with valentines as she stretches her long, long legs out on the couch. She puffs on a Satin filter tip, barefoot and smiling, 6 feet, 2 inches of sweet vindication.
It hasn't sunk in yet: she's $2.6 million richer, rich beyond the "wildest dreams" of a struggling college instructor. Wednesday she won a jury verdict that awarded the bundle in lost wages, mental anguish and punitive damages after she was fired for opposing favored treatment for athletes at the University of Georgia.
"Teachers don't ever dream of becoming millionaires," says Jan Kemp, 36. But now she realizes "we could live like royalty off the interest alone."
And as the state attorney general contemplates whether to appeal in federal court -- and risk paying back interest if he loses -- the meter is running on the jackpot. "We get 8 percent on the money starting today," she says.
To complicate matters, the state's liability insurance company went belly up last December. "In other words, it's broke, and I don't expect to see it resurrected," said one top state official. Which means the state General Assembly may have to ante up the bulk of the money.
"We're grappling with it," said state Attorney General Michael Bowers today in an interview.
Kemp aims to build a chapel for the Living Faith Fellowship, a country church that stood by her, pay her psychiatrist, lawyers and other creditors, and treat a loyal student supporter to graduate school. Then she wants to get back to the classroom.
"I love to teach," she says. "This case wasn't about money. It was about academic integrity."
Victory is especially honeyed for a tall, willowy English instructor who has traveled a road to "hell and back," as she puts it, bouncing back from deep depression, two suicide attempts and personal debt in her battle against jockomania at her alma mater.
Though highly regarded as a teacher, she lost her job as coordinator of the remedial studies program at Georgia four years ago after protesting the automatic admission and advancement of ill-prepared athletes and wealthy donors' sons with failing grades.
As the ordeal sapped her, she found herself deserted by faculty friends. Two fellow teachers were fired, she says, for backing her reluctance to pass nine athletes who had received Fs. She was so distraught, she attempted suicide two weeks after she gave birth and wound up in a hospital.
"I felt so guilty," she says, "they were firing all my friends. We're a two-income family and we'd just lost half our income. I was looking for a job. I didn't want to be a burden. Of course, it was irrational."
One football player who flunked out was offered re-entry if he agreed to write a letter damning her academic skills. Which raises the question: How did he compose that piece of zapmail (accusing her of frequenting homosexual parties and derailing his classroom concentration with lewd allusions to taking her clothes off) when he could hardly write his own name?
"He dictated it to a secretary in the office of academic affairs and she wrote it," laughs Kemp. All that came out in a six-week trial here. A jury of six ruled that college administrators had violated her freedom of speech under federal civil rights laws.
What mournful Bulldog fans across the state may find hard to believe is that Kemp loves the Dawgs. Indeed, she's a Bulldog fanatic. For 15 years, she never missed a home game. She waited outside locker rooms. She held season basketball tickets. She cheered for track. She even has a favorite gridiron memory: the game-saving pass tossed in the final seconds against Florida in 1980. Her head was in her lap when it happened.
"I thought we were gonna lose," she says. "Georgia was behind. Then the crowd starts screaming and Bill (her husband of 17 years) grabs me off the bench and says, 'Lindsay Scott just scored a touchdown.' And I jumped to my feet and started yelling and screaming."
Soon, they were off to drive 10 hours to the Sugar Bowl to watch Herschel Walker, one of her top students, help bring home a national championship. "I wanted to be able to tell my grandchildren I was there," she says. "I followed the Dawgs around like a groupie."
So why did she sue administrators of the school she loved? "Cleaning up corruption at the University of Georgia and protecting students is my primary purpose," she said on the eve of her trial. "I don't want student athletes knocking on my door five years from now offering to rake my leaves when they could have had an education."
It was March 1981. She was coordinator for the school's special studies program, set up six years back to help students with low college boards and high school grades below university standards gain admission to the regular curriculum within a year. About 50 of the 300 students in the program are athletes.
"There's no greater thrill than to take someone who can't write and teach them the power and effectiveness of the language," she says.
Indeed, she thrived, earning top marks from Leroy Ervin, university assistant vice president, until she learned in 1981 that six athletes in the remedial program had earned Fs. It broke her heart. She told their professor, "I'm sorry we weren't more successful."
The phone rang, she remembers. It was Ervin. "These athletes made Fs," he said. "We can't have that." She was ordered to phone the teacher and get the grades changed to incompletes. She balked.
"I wouldn't dream of interfering with another teacher's grades," she said. Ervin stormed over to her office, where he "screamed, stomped and flailed his arms. He shook his finger in my face, 'Who do you think is more important to this university, you or a star (basketball) player?"
"He wanted me to find someone who would just rubberstamp them," she says. Ervin denied her account in court.
At the trial, defense attorney Hale Almand touted the remedial program: "We may not make a university student out of him, but if we can teach him to read and write, maybe he can work at the post office rather than as a garbage man when he gets through with his athletic career."
Kemp had higher hopes. She tutored students on her own, on top of administrative duties. Then a wealthy old grad's son in the remedial program phoned her at home about midnight to grouse about homework. He was cursing. She asked him to call back at a more reasonable hour and hung up. He called back, still cursing.
She filed charges with the student judiciary, which Ervin pressured her to drop, she says, an account he denies. She refused. Found guilty, the student was sentenced to 10 hours of public service, but received a presidential pardon.
In the fall, nine scholarship football players waltzed into the normal curriculum after earning Ds in remedial studies. "It was as if they had made As," she says. A young woman with a D got the boot.
Under university rules, Cs or better are required for promotion. But Virginia Trotter, a white-haired university vice president who blessed the promotions, said, "They had all made successful progress. They (just) needed a little more time."
Kemp dashed off a letter of protest. "I felt no athlete would hit a lick ever again," she says. "We can't keep admitting people who can't compete. We had athletes who had scored flat 200s on their SATs. You get that much for signing your name."
But coach Vince Dooley insists no athlete was ever admitted with a combined score as low as 400 -- 480, yes. "That's still disgraceful," scoffs Kemp. "But I saw flat 400s in the book." NCAA rules have since boosted the requirement to 700 SAT.
She rallied an admissions committee protest. She wrote a letter to Virginia Trotter. When officials asked that all copies of the letters be tendered, "everyone made multiple copies."
A month later, in February 1982, she was demoted to the teaching faculty. In April, she got a pay cut after writing the university president. She lost a grievance against the university and was fired. Officials say she lost her job for failing to publish in her field, but the jury believed it was for speaking out. She filed a lawsuit against Ervin and Trotter. Under Georgia law, the university cannot be sued.
"Most of my colleagues stopped talking to me," she said. "A few stuck by me, but I was careful not to be seen with them in public. I didn't want to jeopardize their careers. I felt like Hester Prynne."
One official began soliciting athletes for "nasty letters about me," she says. One jock testified to the deal he was offered: the letter for readmission. He went along. She wound up pregnant without a job that summer. Two weeks after her son was born, she attempted suicide. "I couldn't even do the laundry," she said. "I thought I was doing the family a favor."
It was a serious depression that lasted two years, as the case wound its way toward the courtroom. She saw a psychiatrist. She joined the country church, where friends prayed for her. The family sank deeper and deeper into debt. They borrowed $40,000 from her mother-in-law. Her lawyers let their fees, which total more than $100,000, take a temporary hike.
Would she settle, she was asked. "I don't want hush money," she said. "I won't settle at any price."
Of the trial, she says, "I enjoyed every minute of it." Even the dirty laundry about her? She shrugs, "It was a lie. It was water off a duck's back." The jury agreed.
She grew up tall and shy in Griffin, Ga. Her father worked his way up to the executive suite of the telephone company. Her mother was a housewife. Neither finished college. She yearned to study journalism at Georgia.
"I thought it would make me talk to strangers," she said. At Georgia, she fell in love and married her husband, now a high school history teacher in Atlanta. "He wrote poetry, had a thick beard and leather coat that smelled delicious," she recalls. "I fell in love immediately."
*She earned a 4.0 average, made Phi Beta Kappa and graduated magna cum laude; worked as a secretary for a while in Atlanta, wrote speeches for a state official, then decided to go back to school for a master's, and later, her doctorate in education, at Georgia.
Friends at more prestigious schools twitted her. "They used to say you had to ride through Athens with your windows rolled up or they'd throw you a diploma."
Today her telephone answering machine bleeps nonstop with media madness. She's just finished a live interview with CNN; the networks want her. "Honey, it's a Detroit radio station," says Bill, husband of 17 years. "They want you on at 11 p.m., what do you say?"
"Tell her to get serious," she says. "I'll be in snoozeland." They call back: How about 9 p.m? Forget it. She's exhausted, too much talk, too many cigarettes.
A local TV crew has been dogging her all day for a special: the making of a media star. She's on her way to New York to talk book contracts with publishers; no fewer than a dozen Hollywood producers and studios want her.
"Let's see," she says, "Paramount, 20th Century-Fox, Lorimar." She goes on. And why not? It's made for the big screen, larger than life, in the parlance of pitches: a woman who battles injustice and triumphs over cruel fate, a sort of down home hybrid, "Silkwood" meets "North Dallas Forty"?
Who does she want to play herself? Streep, Glenn Close? "I can't think of an actress tall enough," she says. "But Dr. Trotter (a chief antagonist on the faculty) has got to be Shelley Winters."