Whenever I think of Joan, the first image that comes into my mind is this dynamo of a woman, hair piled on her head standing in the well of “IRC 3″ the largest auditorium style class space at SUNY Oneonta in the first half of the 1970s. Her classes were events. She was the complete educator-equal parts brilliance, wit, compassion, and wisdom. Her syllabi were daunting, but her expectations clear. When you got on that ride with Joan Iversen, you know where it was going, but the getting there would be the adventure. I’ve often told how she brought history to life, for instance talking about “Franklin, Winnie, and Joe” (Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin) in a way that made them approachable, understandable, and alive. When this tiny white woman read us Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech, the chills went up and down our spines. Oh my, that lady could teach! But she also taught us to think.
She introduced us to a world that included the likes of I.F. Stone (or Izzy, as she called him, when she would bring in an article from his latest “Weekly.” Joan made us want to excel, she didn’t demand excellence, she just was such an excellent teacher that she brought out (in me, at least), new depths of understanding, critical thinking, and work ethic. As many before have said, she changed my life.
After I graduated from Oneonta, I stayed in touch with Joan. I remember how excited I was to read her book on Mormon women. Joan had found that these early settlers to Utah, as plural wives often had more economic freedom and political rights than women anywhere else in the country. Some years later, an extended project took me to Salt Lake City and its environs for months. I found myself again being a student of Joan as I analyzed how much had appeared to have changed in that landscape for women in Utah in subsequent 125 years.I would look forward to seeing Joan and Jack at Alumni Weekends in Oneonta in May or June each year. In the early years she would laugh at my friends and I was straggled in, worse for the wear after a night at the Copper Fox, reliving our youth. I think she laughed harder as we aged and learned the benefits of moderation. I hope she knew how much she meant to all of us.
~ Mark Delligatti (1975)
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