Joan C. Dressel
2004 Honorary Alumni
Good luck has always been in Joan C. Dressel’s corner. First she was born in the United States of America. Second, she was born to parents who loved each other, loved her, her older sister and her younger brother. Third, on her eighth birthday she received the best present ever, a baby brother.
Her father always teased Dressel that she was born in February of 1929 and the “Great Depression” started in October of 1929. The family survived very well. They had a little money but were far from rich. They had a rather small extended family. She says if they had a family reunion there would have been nine people present. She had both sets of grandparents until she was thirteen years old.
Although born in Columbus, Nebr., she grew up in South Bend, Ind. She graduated in 1947 from John Adams High School and in 1951 from Butler University. From 1951 to 1956, she was a reporter for the South Bend Tribune. She then worked for St. Mary’s College for a brief time and later moved to Wilmington, N. C. where she wrote for the Wilmington News.
In all three situations, Dressel had wonderful experiences and got to meet some fascinating personalities. In a group of about twelve, she had lunch with Eleanor Roosevelt, she also met Helen Hayes, the first lady of the American Theatre, Maria Von Trapp of Sound of Music fame, interviewed actress Kathryn Grayson and shook hands with Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times critic Walter Kerr, former archbishop of New York Cardinal Spellman and everybody’s favorite actor, Andy Griffith.
By the time Dressel reached the age of 29, she decided to return to Indiana University where she received a master of Education in Student Personnel. She was hired at Butler University in Indianapolis as director of their Women’s Residence Hall.
In 1966, she found her way home – East Tennessee State University. Dr. J. Willene Paxton hired Dressel as her Assistant Dean of Women. She retired from ETSU in February, 1992. In that time, Dressel held a variety of jobs including Director of Housing, Assistant Director of Career Development and also served as a faculty member in Developmental Studies.
To say that Dressel has had an interesting life would be an understatement. She saw most of the last three quarters of the twentieth century and at least the beginning of the twenty-first century. She has seen Hawaii, Canada, Europe, Ireland and a good part of the United States. She truly believes she found her home in the best place of all – Upper East Tennessee.
In November 2001, ETSU honored Dressel as the first Director of Housing by designating the new study room and resource center located in Lucille Clement Hall as the “Joan C. Dressel” room.
Dressel says she wishes everyone could have the luck that she has had and believes her guardian angel has been a special one.