Joanne Tobiessen, former Career Center director, is mourned

Publication Date

Joanne Tobiessen, retired director of the College’s career and placement program, is being remembered as a caring mentor to students and colleagues and a champion for advancing women on campus and beyond.

Joanne Tobiessen

Joanne Tobiessen with her son, Josh, and husband, Peter.

She passed away Dec. 5, 2023.

A campus memorial service is planned for Saturday, March 23, at 2 p.m. in Old Chapel.

Joanne joined the College in 1983 and retired in 2001.

Raised in the Midwest, she never lost her Midwestern values. After her family moved to California, she attended Pomona College for two years, then graduated from Northwestern University. Later, she went on to earn her master's degree in social work from the University of California, Berkeley.

She moved to North Carolina where she married her husband, Peter. While there, she worked at a clinic at the University of North Carolina, counseling parents of children with physical and mental challenges. When Peter accepted a position at Union, they moved to Schenectady, where she served as a social worker at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital. Later she took a job in the career center at Russell Sage College, eventually reaching the position of director.

In 1983, she joined Union as director of the Career Center. While there, she trained a group of student Peer Facilitators who counseled their peers about career development. She was also well known for mentoring younger colleagues in the profession. Tom Denham, now the principal of Careers in Transition, a private career counseling service, attributes his success to Joanne’s mentoring at Union.

“Because of her investment in me, I have been able to impact the careers of hundreds of students, alumni and individuals in our community,” he said. “She made a difference in my life, and I am paying it forward and making a difference in the lives of my clients. She can take credit for all the people I have helped over the years.”

She also served as co-chair on Union’s Commission on the Status of Women and was among a small group of faculty and administrators who launched the women’s studies program at Union. She observed that knowledge gained by students through women’s studies had a ripple effect that “creates a different kind of atmosphere on campus … a more questioning environment [that is] supportive for people to speak out on a variety of issues.”

After she retired in 2001, she formed the Working Group on Girls of Schenectady Inc. through the League of Women Voters. This mentorship program targeting Schenectady middle school girls is now in its 20th year. WGGS recently won the United Way’s Perfect Pitch award for FRESH, a program that fosters sustainable life skills.

WGGS “was dear to her heart and dedicated to her pursuit of enhancing the lives of girls and women,” said Dianne Crozier, a retired admissions dean who worked with Joanne at WGGS. “What a tribute to her that the hard work and support on behalf of these girls continues.”

Survivors include her husband, Peter, professor of biological sciences emeritus; and her son, Josh.

The published obituary for Joanne Tobiessen is online.