In Memoriam: Joann Fenton

Joann Fenton, a former dean at California State University, Dominguez Hills, died of cancer in May 2012, Dateline Dominguez has learned. She was 75.

Dean Joann Fenton in 1982.

Fenton joined the faculty of CSU Dominguez Hills in 1970 as a professor of anthropology, and in 1979 was named dean of the then School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. She served in that position until 1987 when she moved to Pennsylvania to become the provost and vice president of academic affairs at Shippensburg University. After retirement in 2000, she moved to Green Valley, Arizona near Tucson.

“Joann was a great friend and colleague, and I regret that her passing may be unknown to some members of the campus community,” wrote Dema Scott (B.A., 1972; MSA, 1976), who worked in student development from 1972 to 1997.  Scott, along with Fenton’s sister Nancy, and James Harris, emeritus professor of economics from 1969 to 2000 and former dean of faculty and student affairs, were by Fenton’s bedside when she passed.

Born in 1937 in Pittsburgh, Penn, and raised in Tulsa Okla., Joann received her bachelor’s degree in history and her master’s and doctorate (1974) in anthropology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. Scott said that it was during Fenton’s early school years in Oklahoma that Fenton first came to meet and know many Native Americans. It was those ties which became the basis of her lifelong interest in social and cultural anthropology.

Her academic work was focused primarily on the Native Americans of the Southwest. She lived and worked on the Arizona Navajo reservation for many summers, completing a two year ethnosemantic study in 1970. Scott said Fenton’s collection of Native American art including prints, woodcuts, lithographs, serigraphs, was left to The Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Fenton maintained close ties with many of her friends and colleagues from CSU Dominguez Hills. During her final months she received cards and calls from her “DH friends” and that contact was a great comfort to her, Scott said.

She is survived by two sisters: Kay Schumacher of Rochester, MN and Nancy Fenton of Fountain Hills, AZ, and several nieces and nephews.


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