In a moving service on June 30, approximately 400 alumni, family and members of the Otterbein community said farewell to one of its most beloved members, Joanne “Dean Van” Van Sant H’70.
To say Dean Van is special to Otterbein is to suggest the universe is large. Indeed, perhaps no other person in the history of the institution has been so ingrained as a very part of the fabric of Otterbein University.
President Kathy Krendl said at the ceremony, “As we think about Dean Van’s legacy, it is challenging to think about any other person in our history who so completely walked the talk of leadership. Was there anyone who better represented the qualities of leadership? She lived this Cardinal Experience, and because of her actions and her commitment, it is now fully embedded as part of each student’s Otterbein Experience.”
The service included numerous heartfelt moments, including the welcome by Becky Fickel Smith ’81 and reflections by Mindy Day (niece of Marilyn Day ’53) and Mary Day ’59. Karen Radcliffe Smith ’80 performed an imagined monologue by Dean Van at her college gradaution. The monologue was written by Carter Lewis ’73.
There were many musical aspects as well. Dee Hoty ’74 sang the Otterbein Love Song; Hoty, Todd Reagan ’84 and Maribeth Graham ’82 sang a medley of Dean Van’s favorite songs; and Nancy Day ’80 performed an original music tribute while a slide show of Dean Van photos, assembled by Mark Peters ’70, ran in the background.
Vice President for Student Affairs Bob Gatti H’03, who presented the final reflection of the ceremony, remembered meeting Dean Van for the first time at a higher education conference in 1978, fresh out of graduate school.
“The first thing she said to me was, ‘How are you surviving this meat market?’ She was the first and only one of 25 interviewers who showed she actually cared about me. She told me about her college, but more importantly, she told me about her students. I called my wife, Jackie, and said, ‘I want to work with this lady.’”
Gatti continued, “Her true love was her students. She understood the importance of self-esteem and the need for students to take control of their lives.”
Longtime Otterbein Chaplain Monty Bradley gave both the invocation and the benediction.
Prior to the ceremony, an oak tree was planted on the Towers Hall lawn in memory of Dean Van.