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Dr. Joan Reiner Wilson, 1930-2013
We knew Joan as Mrs. Reiner, American history teacher, at SHHS.


Dr. Joan B. Wilson

June 25, 1930 - July 24, 2013

Joan celebrated her 83rd birthday a month prior to her death on July 24 from complications following a fall. A professor at Cal State L.A. from 1981 to 1992, she also served the University as acting associate dean of graduate studies and research from 1985 to 1987. At the time of her death, she was working at Pacific States University in Los Angeles, where she held the position of executive vice president since 1993.

Joan received her B.A. in history from Barnard College and obtained her M.A. in social studies with honors at Teachers College, Columbia University. In the 1960s, she began her California teaching career in the Fullerton Union High School District, where she was chair of the Social Science Department at Sunny Hills High School and assistant principal at Sonora High School in La Habra. In 1972, she moved to the Santa Ana Unified School District to become principal of Santa Ana High School and, in 1974, to the Jurupa Unified School District in Rubidoux to become assistant superintendent of education services.

In 1978, she accepted the position of superintendent of schools for the South Pasadena Unified School District. As a South Pasadena resident, she became actively involved in the community, which she continued after becoming a professor at Cal State L.A. She completed her Ed.D. in educational administration at UCLA with great distinction.

While at Cal State L.A., Joan was responsible for the restructuring of the curriculum in school finance. She also actively encouraged women to become administrators and educational leaders. As acting associate dean of graduate studies and research, she administered several grants, produced a graduate studies brochure, and edited university and school guidelines and procedures to conform to the California Education Code.

As executive vice president, she led Pacific States University in obtaining accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. She also acted as the international liaison for overseas students who needed to meet Immigration and Naturalization Service guidelines for American study.

A member of many state and national professional organizations, Joan received honors and awards, both local and international, from entities ranging from the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, where she was a trustee (1993-2013), and Arizona State University (Distinguished Visiting Professor, 1991) to the Republic of Korea (1989 and 1984) and the Soviet Teacher's Union (1988). She also received faculty development program and research/study awards from Cal State L.A. (1989-90) and a Woman of Achievement Award from Business and Professional Women of Los Angeles (1981).

Joan's involvement in the community included Friends of the Caltech Libraries, Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library, and the Pasadena Symphony. She was a member of the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, holding the position of vice president from 1980 to1983. She became a member of the Board of Directors of the Southwest Museum Collector's Club in 1989 after having served as president and vice president, and then joined the Autry Museum Board. With all this, Joan still managed to maintain her role as a member of the Board of Directors for the Friends of Education at Cal State L.A.

Widowed in 1977 when her husband Dr. Charles Wilson, chancellor of the North Orange County Community College District in Fullerton, died. Joan is survived by sisters, Carol and Paula, three stepchildren and seven nieces and nephews.

A memorial was held at the Atheneum at Caltech on September 21, 2013.

Published in Pasadena Star-News on Oct. 20, 2013


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Paul Saevig '67 on January 5, 2014 at 11:13 PM said:

Mrs. Wilson was an elegant lady of great refinement. She was a brilliant scholar who happened to love young people, and took a delight in their questions and comments. She had a fine sense of humor, and sometimes shared a laugh about the heavy German dinners her family used to serve on Sunday afternoons, or how she never "jumped the wall at Barnard" College -- meaning she never sneaked over to the all-male Columbia University of that time, next to her own all-female Barnard.

What I remember most about Mrs. Wilson was her warmth and kindness. Cindy Hall Ranii, '65 kept in touch with Mrs. Wilson over the years, and Cindy and I planned to visit Mrs. Wilson in Pasadena. I'm sorry we never got around to it.

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January 5, 2014.