Dr. Joan M. Schlaich began her career at CSULB in 1965 when Dance was still in the Physical Education Department. In 1970 she and Betty DuPont founded the Department of Dance. It offered only a minor, and was housed on a roof top, in a trailer and eventually in a tent in the School of Fine Arts. The BA Degree was initiated in 1978. It was the first one to be offered in the CSU and was accredited as a professional degree by the National Association of Schools of Dance in 1984. Subsequently the Long Beach Dance Department was the first in the CSU to offer the BFA (1989) and the MFA (1991) Degrees in Dance.
As Department Chair for many years, Joan finished her career at CSULB with her crowning achievement… the completion of The Dance Center in 1994. At the time of her retirement in 1996, the CSULB Department of Dance had gained recognition as one of the ten best departments in the United States.
Building this Department in a system that did not even have degree earning status for dance was a monumental task, yet Joan and Betty also established the Long Beach Summer School of Dance which ran from 1968 to 1974 and from 1981 to 1984. This was a meeting/working/studying/performing venue for an enormous number of established and emerging dance artists from throughout the U.S. It was extremely important in its time.
Active on the Academic Senate and many other committees, Joan was fully vested in the life of the University and the dance community beyond. Hers was an amazing career. She touched the lives of countless students and colleagues who will not soon forget her. But for those of us whose working home is the Dance Center, we will remember and honor her with every step we take on the Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater stage.
Please take a moment to view a documentary by Gregory R.R. Crosby depicting Joan's fight to create the Dance Center at CSULB.