A Long and Winding Road

Joan Ficke ’71 was recently named dean of The Graduate School at Montclair State University.

Over her 34-year career at Montclair State, Dr. Ficke has served in several key positions in Academic Affairs, director of the Women’s Center, and most recently as the University’s senior vice provost. Today, as the dean of the Graduate School, Dr. Ficke’s goal is to encourage more students to continue their education past undergraduate work – on to the many opportunities available at the graduate and doctoral levels.

“As the economy begins to rebound and people are thinking about their next career move, Montclair State’s graduate programs offer a rich menu of possibilities for consideration,” says Dr. Ficke. “Changing your career trajectory can be a challenge. We partner with students every step of the way as they work to achieve their goals.” She adds, “I admire people who come back to school later in life. There will be sacrifices, in terms of juggling class work and life’s obligations, but the long-term advantages will make it all worthwhile.”

Looking Back

Rewind to 1967 – one of Billboard’s top songs is “To Sir With Love,” and one of the top movies is The Graduate.  And, it’s certainly an understatement when Bob Dylan sings – The Times, They Are A’Changin. A young girl from Paterson, New Jersey, arrives on the Montclair State campus as an undergraduate, and neither Montclair State nor Joan Ficke can anticipate that she will begin a 34-year career at Montclair State and become an integral part of the University as it moves into the future.

Dr. Ficke grew up during a time when women did not automatically head off to college like they do today.  Not only that – but there really was no opportunity for “girls” to play organized sports (thank you, Title IX!).  So, as a natural athlete, Dr. Ficke would have to play “pick up” games on the street with her two older brothers. “When I enrolled here, I knew I wanted to study teaching, physical education, and health,” Dr. Ficke said. “My inner tomboy flourished at Montclair State. I played field hockey, ran track, and played on the basketball team for four years.” After earning her undergraduate degree from Montclair State, Dr. Ficke went on to earn her masters and doctorate from New York University in 1975. She was inducted into the Montclair State University Hall of Fame in 2006.

It’s a bit of an understatement to say Dr. Ficke “played basketball”­ – she actually led the Montclair State senior women’s basketball team to the state championship. “The sense of competition and camaraderie developed among my teammates was truly determinative of one’s own development,” she said. “It was a time when we were fighting for Title IX (The Educational Amendments of 1972, a landmark legislation that bans sex discrimination in schools, whether it be in academics or athletics), which strengthened our bond not only as teammates but as women.” In her senior season of 1970-71, the game of women’s basketball changed going from six to five players. Serving as team captain she led Montclair State to a 12-1 mark, the lone loss coming to national power West Chester State in the championship game of the Middle Atlantic Women’s Intercollegiate Regional Tournament.

Upon graduation in 1971, Dr. Ficke continued her affiliation with the Montclair State basketball team as an assistant coach and served as the interim head coach in 1974, where she mentored a young freshman by the name of Carol “the Blaze” Blazejowski '78, now serving as the Associate Vice President of University Advancement at Montclair State. Blazejowski was most recently the president and general manager of the New York Liberty, one of the founding Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) franchises. Blazejowski was inducted into the Montclair State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989.

Looking Forward

While campus has certainly changed over the past 34 years, Dr. Ficke said she is grateful she has been able to witness the transformation up close and personal. “I think Montclair State is a game changer whether you are an undergraduate student or graduate student, we have superb faculty who care a lot, and great leadership,” she said. Dr. Ficke believes the one thing that has not changed is the contagious energy in the air coming from students eager to learn, and the excitement to see what the future holds after graduation. Dr. Ficke says, “If you haven’t been here since graduation come back what is here now is something to see. Remember your roots. I even remind myself of this my Montclair State education made my life as it is today possible.” 

All in the Family

There may be one person who is as close to Montclair State as Dr. Ficke – her husband,  

Joseph Thomas Moore, professor emeritus of History and Social Studies Education at Montclair State, and author of Montclair State University: A Century of Triumph Over Circumstance, which he authored for the centennial anniversary celebration. Together, the couple has shared their lives – both personal and professional – with Montclair State, its faculty and administration, and most of all its students and alumni.  

The Ficke-Moores have four children, Lauren, Lisa, Valerie, and David, and five grandchildren, Evan, 11, Peter, 10, Emily, 9, Sarah, 7, and Alex, 7. “My grandchildren help me see the world in a different wayit is a joy that you can’t imagine until they enter your life.”

Absolutely!

Fast forward to 2011 – we watched Texas A&M win the Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament; we watched the WNBA play in Madison Square Garden; Fergie and the Black Eyes Peas song Just Can’t Get Enough is in the Top Ten; Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State; and Dr. Susan Cole is President of Montclair State University. The obvious question to Dr. Ficke is – if you had to do it all over again – would you?  Her answer is “Absolutely!”