JoAnn Busenbark was one of the first people I met when I arrived in Napa. She was serving her third term on the Napa Valley College Board of Trustees and I knew immediately that her leadership, knowledge and expertise would provide invaluable as I took on the role of superintendent/president.

JoAnn liked to be kept informed and “in charge,” but she trusted the expertise of faculty, staff, and campus leadership, and strengthened the board’s reputation for collegiality, effectiveness, and good decisions. JoAnn was a careful listener who valued different perspectives and respected the ideas of others; however, she never met a decision she could not make, didn’t hesitate to “call for the question” – in someone’s mid-sentence if discussion had bogged down – but she was always straightforward, vintage JoAnn. She was gentle and tough, kind and generous, and passionate with a capital P.

JoAnn had a positive impact on Napa from the day she arrived here in 1967 until the very end, fighting for all issues related to the disabled population of the Napa Valley, as well as the elderly and the poor. She first became associated with Napa Valley College working with Napa Work and Training Center, now known as PSI, which provides training and job placement services to individuals with disabilities.

A champion of disabled students and lifelong learners as well as a fierce advocate for workforce development, meeting community education and training needs, JoAnn worked at Napa Valley College for more than 30 years, developing many of the programs and classes for seniors at the Upper Valley Campus and the Veteran’s Home.

She first joined the college as an instructor in 1970, serving in a variety of capacities all related to disabled students, programs, and services, and retired in 2003 as Associate Dean of Special Services (now DSPS). JoAnn was a strong advocate for students, whether it was the student-athletes she supported by attending their games, Phi Theta Kappa students in whose fundraiser she golfed, the disabled students whose needs she defended, students who relied on public transportation to attend college, or the graduates she cheered on.

JoAnn continued her dedication to students serving three terms on the Napa Valley Community College District Board of Trustees. From 2004-2016, she served as the representative for Area 6, and in 2009, she was appointed by her colleagues to serve as president of the board. During her tenure on the board, JoAnn contributed a unique perspective and much wisdom to deliberations of the board and was influential in moving the college forward through budgetary challenges, Measure N and the ever-evolving landscape of higher education.

She was an advocate for new facilities and programs, and a resounding voice for 'students first.' Her reputation as a knowledgeable and engaged trustee helped the college achieve its leadership position as the top Community College in the state. In honor of her three terms on the Board of Trustees, JoAnn was granted Trustee Emerita status in 2016.

JoAnn was a dear friend, and she will be greatly missed by all who knew her – as well as those who did not – because of the incredible impact she had on our college and on our community.

Ron Kraft


Napa Valley College

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