Joanne Halderson Black, 85, of Indianapolis, Indiana, passed away peacefully in her sleep on December 11, 2023. She was deeply loved by her family, friends, and the many students she touched during her lifetime of teaching mathematics. We will miss her.
Joanne was born on December 15, 1937, in Phillips, Texas, to the late Maxwell and Louise Halderson. She grew up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma — the older sister to her brothers Clark and Dean. In her high school, Col-Hi, Joanne excelled in classes and art, and was a highly accomplished pianist.
Joanne’s educational journey reflects her curiosity and adventurous spirit. She attended Kansas University, where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. It was during her college career that she made a key choice between her love for music and her passion for mathematics. Opting to pursue math, Joanne next attended graduate school at Purdue University, where she serendipitously met her future husband, Tom.
Joanne married Tom and they settled in Indianapolis, where she raised her family, pursued her teaching career, and enjoyed 62 years of marriage.
Later in life, Joanne returned to school, earning a Master's Degree in Math Education from Butler University. Her Master's thesis explored the different ways boys and girls learn math, underscoring her strong commitment to championing the cause of girls in mathematics.
Joanne had so many interests, her many hobbies making her life colorful and fulfilling. A talented pianist, she filled her home with beautiful music during late afternoons before dinner. Joanne’s wildflower garden was her lifelong passion, her backyard a wild collection of plants and flowers transplanted to her garden from roadsides around the country. She loved animals of all kinds, and throughout her life she charmed uncountable numbers of dogs, cats, gerbils, birds, squirrels, and chipmunks with her kindness and gentle ways.
Joanne was an avid fossil hunter, decorating her dining room with amazing finds from Oklahoma, Indiana, Arizona, and Greece. She sewed clothes for her children and herself, and made keepsakes for many family and friends. In recent years, she enjoyed solving puzzles, especially Sudoku and crosswords, and could often be found working on a puzzle while watching her favorite TV shows. Joanne even worked out math problems for fun; sometimes waking up with solutions in mind, showcasing the creativity that endeared her to everyone who knew her.
Joanne spent 30 years teaching high school and middle school mathematics at Park Tudor School, many of those years as the Math Department Chair. Her favorite subjects to teach were Geometry and Calculus. Joanne was a recipient of the Mathematical Association of America’s Edyth May Sliffe Award for distinguished mathematics teaching in middle and high school, which is awarded to only 20 teachers nationwide each year.
Joanne touched the lives of countless students, many of whom say math never made sense until they had Mrs. Black for a teacher, and that she was the best, most patient, and most kind teacher they ever had. In retirement, Joanne volunteered as a math tutor at the Charles A. Tinley Accelerated School and assisted in the Park Tudor Lower School Library.
Joanne was wholly dedicated to teaching and to her students. Her classroom was a popular after-school hangout, as she would spend nearly every afternoon giving her students extra help. She loved using her creativity to excite students about math, writing math-themed Christmas carols and playing them on her keyboard while students sang. She devised math projects using candy Legos and directed “math mystery” movies with student actors. Joanne was an enthusiastic participant in school Homecoming spirit days, teaching classes at times dressed as a student, cloaked as a ninja, and once wearing a gorilla mask.
Joanne was a fierce competitor, accompanying her students to a multitude of math contests held around the state. She was a long-time Brain Game coach and led her team to multiple championships. Joanne truly loved her students as her own, which is no doubt the reason so many felt comfortable calling her Mom.
Joanne was one-of-a-kind. Her vibrant personality left an indelible mark on everyone who knew her. Joanne’s upbeat nature was contagious, and her slightly subversive charm added a delightful flair to conversations. Throughout her life, Joanne unapologetically advocated for what she thought was right. Yet it was her ability to charm everyone she met with her sly sense of humor that stood out as her true superpower. With warm smiles and witty remarks, Joanne forged deep connections that lasted a lifetime. Her unique blend of individuality, positivity, and charm made her truly unforgettable.
Joanne is survived by her loving husband, Tom; her children Bob Black, Chuck Black, Mimi Black Rassi, and her daughter-in-law, Theresa Lu; her grandchildren Marina Black, Charlotte Black, Leyna Rassi, and Brandt Rassi.
One of Joanne’s proudest life accomplishments was raising her three kids, Bob, Chuck, and Mimi, into adulthood. In recent years, she was so proud of her grandkids and loved watching them grow up and seeing their accomplishments.
She is preceded in passing by her parents and her grandson, Benjamin Hayes Rassi.
Services for Joanne will be private. A reception for family and friends to celebrate and remember Joanne is being planned for a later date.