Joan Helen Blacher, Graduate School of Education Professor Emerita, passed away on Nov. 5. A memorial service was held for her on Nov. 14, at the Ted Mayr Funeral Home in Ventura.
“Joan was one of my closest friends,” Carol Bartell, retired Dean and Professor Emerita Higher Education Consultant, said. “I was quite honored to conduct the memorial service held for her. I chose ‘living with purpose’ as the theme for my message, since I feel that she epitomized this Cal Lutheran theme.”
Blacher was born in Los Angeles, California. She attended the University of Redlands and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her master’s and doctorate from the University of Southern California, majoring in counseling and education psychology, according to the Ventura County Star.
“She was a very dedicated individual, a highly regarded and often innovative teacher. She held students to high standards, but was always ready to help them reach those standards,” Bartell said.
According to the Cal Lutheran website Blacher taught elementary school, special education and served as a school psychologist in the Los Angeles Unified School District, as well as a the Pasadena Unified School District. She also served as a school psychologist and principal for the Ventura County Superintendent of Schools office and as a professor and Director of the Counseling and Guidance graduate program in the School of Education at California Lutheran University.
“She was very committed to the field of counseling and education and preparing counselors to work in educational settings,” Gail Uellendahl, Department Chair of Counselor education, colleague and friend of Dr. Blacher, said. “She established and designed a program at Cal Lutheran to train counselors who wanted to be in student affairs. She really developed and set the framework for what it is today.”
Uellendahl said Blacher was devoted to her work and was always upbeat.
“She was a very positive person and loved to have a good laugh. She was a very welcoming and generous person,” Uellendahl said.
Bartell said she has fond memories of Blacher.
“She took such joy in the little things,” Bartell said. “Occasionally, I would find a bag of avocados on my doorstep, and knew exactly where they came from.”
Blacher enjoyed many different activities including reading, music and traveling.
“She loved Chinese food,” Uellendahl said. “We would always go to the Chinese restaurant down on Los Arboles while she was working here at Cal Lutheran and even after she retired. She was good company and very generous with her time.”
Blacher also had a passion for writing. She wrote professional journal articles as well as three of her own novels.
“When she was about to retire, I asked her what she was going to do in retirement,” Bartell said. “Her answer was, ‘I am going to write mystery novels.’ And she set about it with gusto and a great deal of research, meeting with detectives and even visiting a morgue. She joined a women’s mystery writing group called ‘Sisters in Crime.’”
Her time involved in academics and at universities is said to have played a prominent role in her novels.
“It was a series following the same detective and she used a lot of her experience as a faculty member because the detective in the book is also a faculty member at a university,” Uellendahl said.
She has influenced many of her colleagues to follow in her positive and welcoming footsteps.
“She was my mentor,” Uellendahl said. “She was such a good mentor to me so I try to be a good mentor to other faculty. I try to make myself available to new faculty coming in the same way Joan was to me and many others.”
Blacher’s memory will continue to thrive, and her impact at Cal Lutheran, as well as her volunteer work and writing, will be remembered by all who knew her well.
“I believe she demonstrated for all of us what it means to live a purposeful life,” Bartell said.
Published December 9th, 2015