Thursday, September 12, 2013

Remembering Joella


According to the 1950 yearbook, Joella played so many different
instruments, she amounted to a "one-girl orchestra."
NEWS OF THE DEATH of Joella Hardemann Gipson-Simpson '50 on January 31, 2012, in Windsor, Ontario, somehow bypassed the Mount Community. The Mount's first African-American graduate was such a remarkable woman that her passing warrants a mention even a year and a half later. Joella's career in education and service is way too extensive to cover in a little blog, but there is a complete obituary in the Windsor Star, and it reveals a woman who put enough into life for three or four people. Here are a few highlights.

Joella Hardeman '50
Nicknamed "Joey," Joella graduated from the Mount in 1950 with a bachelor's degree in instrumental music and minors in philosophy and English. Like many of her fellow Mounties she was active in campus clubs and service organizations. She earned a full scholarship to pursue a master's degree in music at the University of Iowa, which he completed in 1951.

At some point, though, her attention turned to math, and she went on to earn a PhD in Mathematics Education, becoming one of the first African-American women in the country to earn a math doctorate.

Her distinguished career in higher education took her to universities from Mississippi to Africa to Nicaragua, and even included a stint as a math teacher in L.A. Unified School District. 

She attained a full professorship at Wayne State, which she joined in the early 1970s, going on to educate generations of math teachers. Her studies in numerous STEM education issues were funded by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Education grants, and she was twice a Fulbright scholar.  

A lifelong, devout Catholic, she lived the social justice values she learned at the Mount and in her family, throughout her life supporting innumerable charities, service organizations and schools -- including the Mount. In August, 1995, on the 45th anniversary of her graduation, the Mount held a daylong gala in her honor,  and the California Assembly and Los Angeles City Council both honored her life of work and service. 

In 1990, the Mount named her Alumna of the Year. (A sketch of her incredible career is in our online repository.) What a privilege to call Joella Hardeman Gipson-Simpson one of our own.

Joella and members of the Mount Orchestra in 1949-50, her senior year.

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