“Your Mother Changed My Life”


11 faculty from the SUNY-Oneonta History Department: Gerrit Gantvoort, Joan Iversen, WilliamBarber, Daniel Larkin, one unidentified man. Albert Horton, Richard Schadt, Maynard Redfield, Jay Pawa, Erling Hunt, William Morgan

History Department at SUNY-Oneonta, 1971

Your mother changed my life. I am happy to say that I was able to send her a thank you letter before her death. I would like to share my story.

I was your mom’s student for several semesters. She was a Smyth when I began and then became an Iversen. I chose her each semester because of her great mind and authenticity. This was during the early ’70s with demonstrations for women civil rights and rallies against the Vietnam war. I remember one time in class, your mom had learned a new term, “roach” and asked the class if we were smoking insects. We laughed and told her the meaning. She smiled.

I was amazed with her photogenic mind. I was a quiet student who listened but did not contribute to the discussions (mostly because I didn’t do the readings). I did ask questions that your mom appreciated. My time at Oneonta was coming to an end, and I needed a reference from a teacher for my reference file. Since the only classes I attended consistently were your mom’s, I knew she would be the one I should ask. However, I could not imagine such a great mind would have anything positive to say about me. I even went to the school counselor to ask for advice. Unknown to me, he approached your mother and told her about this student “Gus” who was afraid to seek a reference. (I was known to most on campus as Gus except for my professors who knew me as Diane Gusa). Later, I found out that it greatly upset her that any of her students would feel the way I did.

In my last month, we were having a discussion about how society limited the opportunities for women. One male spoke up and insisted that women should stop complaining because that was the past and not now. Well, I forgot my shyness and proceeded to “school” this male student of all the problems I had personally experienced as a woman on the campus.  I must have spoken for almost 5 minutes, and during that time, someone said: “you tell them, Gus!”

After class, your mom asked me to accompany her to the local snack bar.   I thought I was in trouble.   She bought me cookies and milk, and we sat down. That is when my life transformed.

She told me that I indeed was not the most studious students, but in her opinion, I was one of the most intelligent, critical thinkers she knew.    That conversation lifted me up so much. I remember walking back to my apartment and felt like I floated. I saw myself in her eyes and believed what she told me.  I was intelligent!

When I found your mom, so many years later, I told her how her words changed my life. Since those years at Oneonta, I had many professions, never doubting that I could accomplish what needed to be done. Academically I earned a masters and later my PhD and published several pieces. I taught in higher education, using your mom as my inspiration and model. Your mom has been on my mind a lot recently, and I had hoped to reconnect and thank her again. Instead, I am sharing her gift to me with you. I hope this will give you a warm smile. Your mom’s legacy lives in many lives. I only hope that someday I can make the same difference for someone else.

Finally, I do have a request. Your mom wrote a book about Mormon women, and I have searched for it. If you know how I might purchase or find this book, it would be a treasure I have been searching for. (Actually, that is how I found this page.) [Editor’s note: you can purchase a copy of her book The Antipolygamy Controversy in U.S. Women’s Movements, 1880-1925: A Debate on the American Home (Development of American Feminism) (1st Ed) through Amazon –simply click through the book title to find it there.]

— Diane Gusa


Happy Valentine’s Day from Joan Iversen’s Suffragettes


Love me Love my Vote

Love me Love my Vote

Here’s a Valentine’s Day greeting from Joan Iversen’s suffrage postcard collection. You can view some of her other postcards in this gallery. She collected these postcards over much of her retirement.


Photo Moment Memory: Joan Iversen & Mark Delligatti



Mark Delligatti and Joan Iversen

Mark Delligatti (class of 1975) and Joan Iversen in 1992, when Mark was in Oneonta for alumni weekend.

Wonderful snapshot memory from Mark Delligatti. His annual trips back to Oneonta for alumni weekends for the State University of New York College at Oneonta were an occasion to also have a visit with Joan Iversen. Over the many years since his graduation, their relationship evolved from teacher-student into a friendship.

Thanks to Mark for sharing this photo!

Joan Iversen “was in every other sense my real mother”


From Right to Left: Tod Iversen, Joan Iversen, Nancy Smyth, Jack Iversen

Tod and Nancy’s High School Graduation (Right to Left: Tod Iversen, Joan Iversen, Nancy Smyth, Jack Iversen)

Though it may be true that Joan was not my biological mother – she was in every other sense my real mother, always there for us in times of need. She was:

Continue reading

Happy Anniversary to Joan and Jack Iversen


Jack and Joan Iversen at their wedding in 1969.

Jack and Joan Iversen at their wedding in 1969.

This month would have been my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary. It was a second marriage for both of them-if you saw them together, you would not have thought them especially romantic or overtly demonstrative in their affection for each other. But after my mom died in September 2013, Jack was lost without her, and upon hearing that, everyone who knew them commented that they always were together, you rarely saw them apart.

In the final days of Jack’s life, seven months after my mom’s death, he expressed to my sister that one of his few regrets was that he didn’t leave his first wife sooner, so he could have had more time with Joan. Hearing this story, people who didn’t know them exclaim, “it’s a love story.” And yes, I guess it was–just one that was not the cultural stereotype of a love story–quite appropriate for them, I think.

So, in honor of that love story, here are a few photos of them together, beginning with the day they were married (August 1969, a tumultuous time in the world) until their last days together.

Happy Anniversary, Joan and Jack!

Click on any of the photos to see them in a larger image.



“She taught me to admire and respect strong women”



Terry Smyth and Joan Iversen in academic regalia.

Terry Smyth with his mom, Joan Iversen, on the occasion of his graduation from the State University College at Oneonta, 1983

Some say that measure of a person’s life is the impact they have on others’ lives.  If this is true, then my Mom’s life was a tremendous success.  She touched the lives of thousands of students over the years.  As a mother, she impacted all of our lives with her strength, passion, drive and compassion.

Mom was strong, decisive, feisty, witty, intelligent, resilient, and driven to accomplish things.   I remember lots of “to do” lists, and her crossing off the tasks as she completed them.

Mom was a teacher through and through.   Not only was it her chosen career, but she used that skill and force in personal life as well.  She was a problem solver.  If you were her friend or a family member, she would always be there to tell you how to solve your problem.  Even if you didn’t know you had a problem.

When I was in 9th grade, my Mom helped me write a book report for English class.   When I got the paper back with a 90 and I was pleased to show her.  She was not happy at all, but not with me, with my teacher.  She had purposely not corrected it and had some choice words about his competence.

I remember when Mom taught me how to make her delicious Lasagna.  I was anticipating this “old Italian” recipe, passed down from her great-grandmother all the way down to her.  When we started, she had me take the box of noodles out, and told me to turn the box over and follow the recipe. Of course she helped me that first time, but she explained that those were the best recipes because companies would only put the good ones on the box.  She was right, again.

When I was at SUNY-Oneonta as a student, I heard many students rave about how great a teacher she was.  I had the pleasure of taking her for two classes then.   Watching her teach was mesmerizing.  After about 2 minutes I totally forgot that she was mother.  She was dynamic and demanded and received your complete attention.

The first time I took her for a class (pass/fail, of course) we had taken our first test.  Mom liked to give tests with more than 100 points on them.   So everyone was having a tough time figuring out their grade.   A student asked, “Dr. Iversen are you going to curve the test?”.  She explained that at the end of the semester, she would take the total points that you had and the total available points if you had got everything correct, and the top 5% would get A’s, 10 % B’s, and etc. down the line.   Then another student asked them same question, she repeated the same answer.   I knew that math was never her strong point, so I raised my hand and said “Actually Dr. Iversen, it is a curve but you don’t know it”.  She responded with “Are you telling me I don’t know what the F#$&@ I am doing?”  I said “sort of”.  She responded quickly by turning to the class and saying “With a little birth control, I could have avoided all this”.  Needless to say, the class gasped and roared and I shut up.    I was disrupting her class and she shut me up without hesitation.

I am so proud to be her son.  She taught me so much.  How to stand up for your opinion, even if it was not a popular one.  She taught me not to quit, and she taught me to admire and respect strong women.   She was a great mom and a first class human being.   I will miss her, but never forget her.

~ Terence (Terry) Smyth, Joan’s son (and former student, class of 1983)


Lesley Diehl Remembers Joan



Women holding NOW banner

Oneonta NOW Chapter’s Women in the 1975 Memorial Day Parade
Left to right, Unknown, Laurie Zimniewiecz, Joan Iversen, Lesley Diehl, Unknown, Marilyn Buehl Helterline, Unknown

How I Remember Joan

That pink fuchsia and lime green 70’s sheath, four alternating blocks of color paired with matching brilliant pink stockings. I don’t know where that dress is now, but I hope it went to a vintage clothing shop so that someone else is enjoying it as much as we all did.

Joan loved decorating. She was good at it, flamboyant in her execution. She was as fond of bright colors in her decorating as she was in her clothes. She painted the picnic table used for dining in the kitchen at the lake house sunshine yellow. It was the perfect color for the room, but she got as much paint on her rear as she did on the table. I think she sat on the paint can lid.

Joan was the kind of intellectual I most admire, pairing intelligence with passion. When I came over to the house on Elm Street I could hear Joan in the office off the family room typing her dissertation. Tap, tap, tap. Damn! Tap, tap. Shit! Tappity tap, tappity tap. Oh hell!

Before there was match.com, there was Joan. She didn’t bother to match you on twenty-seven compatible characteristics. If you were single, that was fixable.

Joan was direct. She cut through all the BS. She and I were doing a women’s program on campus, probably for a Women’s Week ,and I was trying to answer a question from our audience. I was calm and reasonable in my answer, but Joan wasn’t having any of it. She pushed me to one side when the questioner insisted, “I don’t understand why that’s the case.” And she answered, “Because the f——g research says it is, that’s why!”

That was living life, her special way, Joan style.

I remember her with love. And smiles. And now I have no one to tell me what stories are worth reading in the New York Times.

~ Lesley A. Diehl (http://lesleyadiehl.com/)

Celebrating a Birthday and Scholarship Milestone


Jack and Joan in the kitchen of their Goodyear Lake home, celebrating Jack's birthday.

Jack and Joan in the kitchen of their Goodyear Lake home, celebrating Jack’s birthday.

A ritual gathering in the Iversen household happened at the end of May: everyone would descend on the house at Goodyear Lake to help repair the dock and to celebrate Jack’s birthday with his favorite German Black Forest Cake with chocolate whipped cream frosting (baked by Joan Iversen, of course).

This year, Jack would have turned 84 on May 31st. So it seems especially appropriate to announce, on his birthday, that the scholarship that was established in his memory has become endowed! This means that there are now two scholarships endowed at the State University College at Oneonta, the Dr. Joan Iversen Memorial Scholarship, and the Professor Jack Iversen Memorial Scholarship.

A brick in the alumni brick garden at the State University of New York at Oneonta, put there by Mark Deligatti (1975).

A brick in the alumni brick garden at the State University of New York at Oneonta, put there by Mark Deligatti (1975).

Thanks to everyone who donated to these scholarships to ensure that Joan and Jack Iversen’s legacy continues.  And even though they are now endowed, gifts to each scholarship are still appreciated, because larger scholarships will increase the financial impact to the student recipient.

Finally, if you drink alcohol, please raise a glass to Jack Iversen on this occasion. His favorite drink was Mattingly and Moore bourbon–it was his last sip before he died, and we all drank some of it in his honor at his memorial service.


She “Challenged Women to Look at the World Differently”


Joan Iversen giving one of her lectures

Joan Iversen giving one of her lectures

In 1969, after a first semester of uninspiring courses, I registered for my first course with Dr. Iversen.  This was the way college was supposed to be.  Dr. Iversen’s passion for U.S. History reaffirmed my love of it.  I continued through my college career taking every Dr. Iversen course I could get into. I declared a Social Science major and asked Dr. Iversen to be my advisor.

Dr. Iversen was amazing, while she was lecturing on an event or person, she would cite books and authors for further information.  When I stated my teaching career I would refer to these notes for info.  When I retired a few years ago I was cleaning out my books and found my notebooks from Dr. Iversen’s courses.  What great memories.

Probably her greatest influence was her women studies program.  This was in its early stage during my college career. Dr. Iversen challenged women to look at the world differently and not to accept the status quo.

Thank you Dr. Iversen for being my inspiration. Though during my 30-year teaching career not all my male high school students appreciated it!

~ cassandra finnis-palen

We Did It! A Mother’s Day Scholarship Celebration

Left to Right: Joan Iversen, her sister, Dawn Danielson, and her mother, Jean McAtamney. Kali is in front.

Left to Right: Joan Iversen, her sister, Dawn Danielson, and her mother, Jean McAtamney. Kali is in front.

We’ve just heard from the advancement office at the State University of New York at Oneonta that the Dr. Joan Iversen Memorial Scholarship has passed the $25,000 mark! This means it’s now endowed forever, or in development speak “in perpetuity.”

Thanks to all who have made the scholarship possible! My mom would have been so touched by all the people who gave to continue her legacy, to “pay forward” what she gave to each of us.

Some of you know may that my dad, Jack Iversen, died last month, April 21, 2014. In his final days, he felt good knowing that her scholarship would be secured in the weeks following his death.

We are continuing to accept gifts “to grow” my mom’s scholarship–as it grows it will provide more support to the Women’s/Gender Studies student who receives it. For this reason, I’ve changed the scholarship “goal” to $30,000, just because that’s a good round number.

We also are beginning a scholarship in my father’s name, Professor Jack Iversen, to support a psychology major interested in pursuing a career in school psychology or alcohol/drug abuse prevention/treatment field, who also has demonstrated a commitment to social justice. To donate to either scholarship, see our Donate Now page – just specify in the memo either “Dr. Joan Iversen Scholarship” or “Prof. Jack Iversen Scholarship” to indicate where you would like your donation to go.



A Poem For Joan





We can


hear your voice

in our heads,

in our hearts,

Dear Friend.


In our times

of deepest


in our times

of deepest joy,

you were


with all

your passion

with all

your might.


Even amidst

your pain,

you offered us

scrambled eggs, blueberry muffins,

fruit salad, coffee, and juice.


You are

the flower

in the Buddha’s

outstretched hand,

forever offering

your love.


We will



your Presence

in our lives!


Much love,

Maryam and Akiba Mermey



Joan Iversen Speaks: Women’s Movement & Development of Women’s Studies at SUNY-Oneonta

History Department at SUNY-Oneonta, 1971

History Department at SUNY-Oneonta, 1971 – unnamed man in front row is Ralph Watkins

Perhaps you thought you would never hear Joan Iversen speak again? Fortunately, there are two interviews with her that were recorded as part of the Kitchen Table Conversations that are now housed at Milne Library, SUNY-Oneonta. Listen to her talk about “her education and the women’s movement” and, in the second part of the interview, the “development of the Women’s Studies Department at SUNY-Oneonta“.

The photo came from a clipping in Joan Iversen’s personal papers. I’m told that it was from the 1971 Yearbook, pg. 59 (thanks to Russ Padden for help identifying the source). Thanks to Mark Wolfgang for help identifying the last man in the front row.

“Hands Down, the Best Teacher I Ever Had”


Gavin Masterson shares how he first learned of Elizabeth Cady Stanton from his courses with Dr. Iversen. Stanton (seated) is pictured with Susan B. Anthony.

Gavin Masterson shares how he first learned of Elizabeth Cady Stanton from his courses with Dr. Iversen. Stanton (seated) is pictured here with Susan B. Anthony.

I graduated from Oneonta in 1975, admittedly, quite a while ago. Many memories have become hazy, or simply forgotten. One set of memories that remains vivid is my time spent in Dr. Iversen’s classes. These classes weren’t mere lectures, dictating the facts of the United States post WWII or whatever course you happened to be in, but amazing stories told with tremendous passion, and even more so, great insight. No one missed her classes, they were like a one-woman show! She could work a room like no teacher I ever had, smoking her cigarette with more flair than Bette Davis only wished she could. The best part was that she made each class and era of history fascinating— the day she told us the events of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, I remember calling my parents that night grilling them on their opinions and recall of that time. I was a French major, but remember less French than I do of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who I never heard of till then! Plus, Dr. Iversen had a great sense of humor, and was accessible and didn’t diminish our opinions, though she made us back them up, often expanding our visions and showing us things we hadn’t thought about.

Hands down, the best teacher I ever had. In the years since, I often wished I could have heard her opinions on all the news events that occurred since I knew her; a luxury her family and friends had! We all owe her a great debt.

~ Gavin Masterson (1975)

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Celebrating Joan Iversen’s April Birthday with Childhood Photos!

When Joan Iversen entered a room you knew it: she had a larger-than-life presence. So it may be hard for people to believe that she was really a child once, like all of us. April is the month of her birth–she would have been 82–so it seemed like a great time to share some photos from her early days. Here are a few photos we’ve found — click on each to enlarge the images to full size.

Of course, it was her achievements as a teacher and a scholar later in life that brought her the most recognition. Please join all of us who loved and respected her in celebrating her birth and her contributions. Giving to the scholarship that we’ve established to continue her legacy is a wonderful way to celebrate who she was. Click this link for information on how to give (including online).

We would love to hear your reactions to these photos — please add a comment to let us know what you think. Which do you like the most and why? In which can you see the hints of who she would become decades later?

***To leave a comment–see the “Leave a comment” link just under the title of this article (on the right).





Joan Iversen “will be remembered forever in my heart”


remember by jenny downing

remember by jenny downing

It’s been over 30 years since I graduated from Oneonta, but the one teacher I will always remember fondly is Ms. Iversen. I was so fortunate to have an educator who was incredibly passionate about the subjects she taught and her enthusiasm permeated throughout each student. I become a history devotee after my “Iversen Classes.” In all of my years of schooling, it was one of the few courses I really looked forward to, was excited about and remember to this day. I honor and thank you Joan as my all time favorite teacher. You will be remembered forever in my heart.

~ Allan Infeld (1981)

Photo (remember) courtesy of jenny downing on Flickr