Creating a legacy of service

July 1, 2014

Dr. JoAnn (Williams) Willis first visited NNC in the spring of 1962 for Prospective Student Weekend. Since that first day, JoAnn has been an almost constant presence on campus as a student, professor, mentor, leader and friend. She most recently returned as co-coordinator for the Centennial Celebrations—a year that will not soon be forgotten.

After graduating from NNC in 1965, JoAnn returned to campus in 1966 when her husband, Jim, was asked to join the music faculty. Thus began her career of 40 years of service to the university. During this time, JoAnn held many different positions. For five years she watched over the girls of Morrison and Dooley Hall as resident director. After completing graduate school, she joined the psychology faculty where she spent many years raising up leaders in the field. JoAnn spent a decade as the associate academic dean under Dr. Gilbert Ford and retired in 2006 after another 10 years as dean of the School of Academic Resources. She reflects on her time at NNU with joy. “I have considered my work at NNU as a gift from God. I loved the students, I loved my colleagues and I loved my subject matter.”

As co-coordinator for the Centennial Celebration, JoAnn worked alongside Kathy Johnson to ensure that the vision for the year was fulfilled. JoAnn is no stranger to organizing high profile events, having also chaired the inauguration committees for both President Emeriti Richard Hagood and President David Alexander. This time her primary goal was to bring new energy and insight, especially as liaison to the academic and financial sectors. JoAnn compares the efforts of the Centennial Steering Committee and all those involved to that of a well-calibrated machine. “I am so impressed with the way all the hands and feet of those responsible moved in unison, in the same direction and with the same motivation and excitement.”

JoAnn shares that, for her, highlights of the year include the Pep Rally at The Bean, the Michael W. Smith Concert and the President’s Gala. “The Gala was an event that continues to be a topic of conversation in the Treasure Valley and beyond,” she says. “The atmosphere, the media, the décor, the color, the program—all totally portrayed the image of NNU that we wanted to share with our community.” However, the award for the most complete transformation goes to the Johnson Sports Center (JSC).

“I wish we had filmed the total transformation process of the entire JSC for the Centennial Homecoming weekend. We served five very different meals in the JSC during just a 36-hour time period. JSC served as an alumni banquet hall, the old Bean, the All-Choir Reunion banquet hall, a Centennial birthday party venue, a basketball court and a concert hall. The video and audio media, the food service and the event chairpersons all contributed to the success of this final weekend.”

President David Alexander affirms, “The success of the NNU Centennial Celebration can be linked directly to the creativity, hard work and diligence of Kathy and JoAnn. From the Gala’s custom truffles to a sold-out Michael W. Smith concert with orchestra and alumni choir, JoAnn and Kathy made NNU shine!”