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Associate Dean Joan Tousey retiring after 18-year career at the U of I

by The College of Education / Jun 20, 2012

After an 18-year career at the University of Illinois in corporate relations, fundraising, marketing, communications, and alumni relations, Associate Dean Joan Tousey has spent a lot of time looking at the big picture, an essential attribute for someone in her position.

Tousey, who will retire at the end of June 2012, began working on campus in 1994 in Corporate/Foundation Relations as Associate Director and later Director of that post in the Office of Campus Development. She came to the College of Education in 2002 as Assistant Dean of Development and Alumni Relations and later became Associate Dean of Advancement.

As a young girl, Tousey thought she might be a music teacher, a librarian, or perhaps an accountant like her father. She started piano at age 5 and first picked up the clarinet when she was in the fourth grade. Her parents loved and often listened to classical music and Broadway tunes. Her maiden name is fittingly, or perhaps prophetically, Bach. Although her early career was in music, it later took some unexpected turns.

With her undergrad degree in music—a major in music history and a minor in piano from the McGill University in Montreal—she was fortunate enough to land jobs in her field early on (not always easy to do in music). She worked in corporate relations, special projects, and fundraising for several music-based organizations: the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and then the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. After finding her calling in higher education, Tousey landed her first job on campus in 1994. She later earned her master's degree in 2001 from the U of I College of Education in Human Resource Education.

Although her work experience does not lie solely in fundraising, Tousey said she had to develop a thick skin to succeed. "You have to have a lot of fortitude and confidence to do this job," she explained. "You might get rejected (even trying to make) the first appointment, so the first step is to get to know the person; to establish a relationship."

Tousey said that being good at her job also required "having an interest in people and finding out what makes them tick." She said that being a good fundraising executive requires a strong comfort level in speaking to people of varied backgrounds, beliefs, and political views.

"The person you're speaking to may not be exactly like you," Tousey said. "It's important to find a match, to find the tie; to get someone interested enough in an element of the College of Education in which they will want to invest, in my particular case. It's all about matchmaking and finding the donor’s passion."

Some of Tousey's career highlights at the U of I include being involved in a major Ford Motor Company gift in the 1990s—at that time the largest corporate philanthropic gift to the University, benefitting many colleges and programs on campus; being involved in a private foundation gift from the W. M. Keck Foundation in Los Angeles (also in the 1990s), which proved to be the first successful grant for a program that is now part of the Institute for Genomic Biology; in 2004 at the College of Education, helping to manage the unexpected $4.25 M Charles Dunn Hardie estate gift; and in 2010, making major gift solicitations in Hong Kong and Shanghai with former College Dean Susan Fowler.

Of Joan's contribution to the College, Mary Kalantzis, current Dean of the College, said, "Joan has left an indelible mark on our ability to fund student scholarships and fellowships, provide supplemental research and scholarship support to faculty and graduate students, and generally extended the reputation of this College’s research, teaching and public engagement. During her term as associate dean for advancement, the College of Education was the first to exceed its ‘Brilliant Futures' goal, and then to exceed a second higher goal – quite an accomplishment!

“She worked tirelessly with me to put our building plans on the campus list and to establish the highly successful Youth literature festival,” Dean Kalantzis added.

As associate dean, she reported to both the dean at the College of Education and the campus' vice chancellor for institutional advancement, Jim Schroeder. He helped sum up Tousey's career at the U of I by saying, "Joan's work in the College of Education and in the Chancellor's office has been exemplary and her record of success speaks for itself. She has been a valued colleague and a wonderful role model for the next generation of advancement leaders. Joan is the consummate professional."

Because Tousey traveled extensively – both personally and professionally – to places like Alaska, the Baltic Sea, France, and Italy, retirement for her will include spending time closer to home with family, including her husband, Walt, who retired from the U of I 12 years ago; her mother, Eva, who now lives in town; and her son, step-children, and step-grandchildren.

She says she plans to spend more time reading, running errands by bicycle, and relaxing at a nearby family cabin, and less time adhering to a schedule.

Oh, and don't forget the piano and clarinet. Joan Bach Tousey plans to spend time practicing them as well.