May 22, 2012
Westerville, OH—Otterbein University is mourning the passing of Joanne Van Sant on Monday, May 21, 2012. She was 87. Van Sant was a dedicated professor, trusted counselor, forthright dean, honorary alumna and friend of the University. Friends can share their memories at www.otterbein.edu/tribute.
“Dean Van,” as she was affectionately known, came to Otterbein’s campus in 1948 as an instructor with the women’s physical education department. She became an assistant professor, associate professor and then chairperson of that department. In 1952, she shifted her focus to become dean of women. In 1964, she was named dean of students, and in 1968, was promoted to vice president for student affairs and dean of students.
“She made enormous contributions to student life, to individual students and to University colleagues during an extraordinarily long and productive tenure,” said Tom Kerr, president of Otterbein from 1971-1984. “I especially enjoyed working with her, not only because I respected her leadership and contributions, but also because of her personal warmth and inspirational love of her work. She faced institutional and individual challenges with confidence, compassion and commitment. I shall always cherish my years with Van, a very special person.”
Dean Van had a special interest in the arts. As a choreographer, she lent her expertise to more than 40 musical theatre and children’s theatre productions in 35 years, and served on the Otterbein Theatre Board. She led several campus groups on London theatre tours and for years, starting in the mid-1950s, was a drummer with a faculty pop band. A creative thinker, Dean Van was also responsible for naming the campus icon, Towers Hall, which she suggested after the administrative offices moved out of the building in the mid-1950s.
After her retirement from student affairs in 1992, Dean Van continued to serve Otterbein as special consultant for institutional advancement for many years. In her own words, Dean Van expressed her love of Otterbein. “Otterbein, for me, is and always has been a very unique place, an atmosphere one can’t describe... The cast of characters will change as will facilities and programs. But the heart, soul and spirit will stay strong and live on….”
Otterbein named Dean Van an honorary alumna in 1970 and awarded her an Alumni Citation in 1988 for 40 years of service to Otterbein. Her other awards include an Alumni Citation from Denison University in 1996, the A. Monroe Courtright Award from the Rotary Club of Westerville in 2007, and induction with the inaugural class of the Otterbein Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008. Dean Van was also named a Kentucky Colonel, honored by Zonta International and honored with a Volunteer of the Year Award for her work with mental health issues. She received an honorary doctorate degree from Albright University.
Dean Van was involved in a variety of community organizations, including the American Association of University Women; Zonta International; the Westerville Women’s Music Club; Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio, Inc.; American Council on Education; Directions for Youth; Westerville Civic Symphony; and the Friendship Village of Columbus Board of Directors. She was an ordained elder of the Central College Presbyterian Church.
She was born on Dec. 29, 1924, in Morehead, KY, and raised in Mayfield, KY. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Denison University and master’s degree at The Ohio State University. She was preceded in death by her mother, Dorothy Greene Van Sant, and father, Lewis Loving Van Sant. She is survived by her brother, Gus Van Sant Sr., and his wife, Betty; niece, Malinda Van Sant, and nephew, Gus Van Sant.
“Otterbein is deeply rooted in its values, and Dean Van was the embodiment of many of those values,” said President Kathy Krendl. “To be respectful to others, to put service before self, and to boldly lead change when it is right and just, are values that she represented for all of us, whether we had a long-standing relationship with Otterbein or were recently new to the family. She represented the very best that is Otterbein.”