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Memories of Professor Joy DeSensi

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Dr Jeff Gorbski

Please share your memories of Professor Joy DeSensi.

What a loss. Joy was my teacher, my advisor, and my friend -- all of which was my honor to be. She supported my ideas and helped breathe life into them with her encouragement. She took chances with me that few professors took, and she knew exactly what to say to spur me on to better myself and my writing. She saw things in me that even I didn't see, and for that I am grateful. I am a better person because of her.

Erika Long

Please share your memories of Professor Joy DeSensi.

Dr. DeSensi was the epitome of love, compassion, strength, and courage. My first mentor, she lovingly encouraged me to pursue my goals, before she even knew me well. We met at the bank when she came in to handle business. Her warm spirit and outgoing nature allowed me to feel comfortable enough to express my desire to pursue a new degree and career. Dr. DeSensi too me under her wings and encouraged me to go for it. She often reminded me to never let anything get in my way, and was always there with a listening ear when I needed to cry, vent, or share a moment of praise. I will miss our conversations dearly, especially the memories she shared of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Felicia Cavallini

Please share your memories of Professor Joy DeSensi.

Dr. DeSensi was a class act from the moment I met her as an undergraduate student-athlete at Rice University in the early 80's. You couldn't help but like Dr. DeSensi for she was the up and coming professor who was passionate about her research. Always professional, energetic, pleasant, and caring, Joy never failed to encourage her students to challenge themselves in every way possible. As I've grown more into my field of Health and Human Performance, I appreciate her all the more because she never failed to reach out to her former students to congratulate or encourage them and always exemplified acceptance of diversity without politics or exclusion. My deeply saddened heart is only surpassed with my resolve and determination to carry her spirit and legacy throughout my career. Thank you, Joy for all you've done, not just for me, but for so many others you've powerfully influenced for decades. You were and still are the best!!
May God bless you.

Dr. Felicia Cavallini
Limestone College

Will Carver

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Dr. DeSensi challenged me in a most unique way. She opened my eyes to the world of sports far beyond practices, gameplans, facilities and athletes.

She challenged us on one occasion to watch sports, sports reporting, and sports coverage, to view how society covered and portrayed athletes of different races, gender, origins, religions and other demographics. We all realized that different portrayals existed for each individual demographic group. Those often unfair portrayals were rooted in outdated stereotypes.

The lessons of that exercise apply - and exist - beyond sports, and that lesson is critical to success in modern sport, business, and society.

Gary Gaetano

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I called my cousin before christmas rather than send a card....she thanked me for the call..I sensed an end to things..we grew up in pittsburgh,pa and we had a visit with her about three years ago. the sound of her voice
was my gift.....Gary

Colin Young

Please share your memories of Professor Joy DeSensi.

Joy was a very important person in my life. As my PhD adviser, she was very supportive and helpful in guiding my research. She was also an outstanding teacher and I based a lot of my teaching methods on her's. Joy was always available to talk in her office and it was great going to her house for gatherings.

I will remember her passion for social justice and teaching, her care of others, and her inner strength and light.

Kendall Rainey

Please share your memories of Professor Joy DeSensi.

Initially, Dr. DeSensi challenged me to think outside of traditional parameters and helped me to truly enjoy the theoretical and sociocultural aspects of sport through class discussions, then over eight years she was an irreplaceable mentor and advisor. While advising me through a dissertation across state lines, she provided the perfect combination of encouragement, support, and discipline. She never wavered in checking up on me or maintaining interest in my work, and she would adjust her schedule to meet with me anytime I was able to make it to Knoxville (even though she never told me she was doing this). The impact that Dr. DeSensi had on my life is immeasurable. The desire to continue learning, writing, reading, thinking critically, teaching, joining the conversation, asking questions, and opening the mind of future students are values that Dr. DeSensi taught us to embrace. These are lifelong attributes that I get excited to share with my students, whether as a coach, athletic director, or professor. I am thankful for Joy.

Barbara Thayer-Bacon

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Joy was the dept head who hired me at UTK. She helped form the Cultural Studies program that drew 5 of us here to work. She also served as my mentor when I was a dept head. I cannot think of a better role model and advisor, she was the sweetest, kindest, and wisest person I have gotten to know at UT. I am so glad I had the chance to work with her. She had a beautiful soul! She has touched so many of us, and she will be deeply missed. We will carry on the work she cared so passionately about. What she cared most about was the people she worked with and for. We all loved Joy. -Barb Thayer-Bacon

Lars Dzikus

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“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

For me, Joy was the embodiment of love.

Susannah Knust

Please share your memories of Professor Joy DeSensi.

Dr. D. was such a wise woman who demonstrated so much care. She was willing to invest time in students and truly wanted the best for us. She listened well and was a delightful hostess. She has had a role in shaping me both as a professional as well as a human. With much gratitude.

Tyvi Small

Please share your memories of Professor Joy DeSensi.

Dr. DeSensi was one of nicest and genuine people I've ever met. I'll always remember her sweet spirit and kind words.

Gary Curnutt

Please share your memories of Professor Joy DeSensi.

I believe that certain people are brought into your life for a reason and a dear friend and neighbor of 27 years fell into that category. Dr. Joy DeSensi showed such kindness in so many ways and was always so giving, caring and gracious. Praying for peace and comfort for her family and all those that loved and cared for her during these difficult times. Rest in Peace, my dear friend, for we are all better for having you in our lives.... May God Bless!

B. Nalani Butler

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Sending love to Rocky Top tonight.

Today I celebrate the life of Dr. Joy DeSensi. I just heard of her passing and I am so sad to hear she is no longer with us, but I am so appreciative of the time I was able to spend with her.

She was my mentor, professor, but most importantly she became my friend.
In 2010 I drove down to Tampa, Florida w/ Aileen Taylor for the NASSM conference to explore the possibility of a Ph.D. At the conference, we arrived late at the keynote address and we ended up sitting at the only table with open seats, which was right next to her. Little did I know, that taking that seat would change the course of my life.
She invited me to visit her at the University of Tennessee and because of her, I enrolled in the Sport Studies program and was able to receive my doctorate in 2015.
She mentored me during some very tough times and was always a phone call, text, or visit away.

She was a pioneer for women and sport, she even competed in the Olympics (she wouldn’t tell you that... I had to hear it from someone else). She was THE most ethical woman, and has a book on sport ethics and morality to prove it. Most importantly, she was a kind soul who would always stand up for those who were not able to stand on their own.

She will always be a constant reminder of what it means to live a deeply kind and deeply dignified life, no matter the challenges and obstacles.

She is an inspiration to me and I am so thankful to have known this beautiful person.

Teresa Walker

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I think she must have always radiated the admiration she received from the rest of us because I always felt such genuine appreciation from her. Working with her each semester for the Best Practices In Teaching Program, we joked that it felt like a family reunion. She was an amazing person who has meant so much to so many.

Jennifer Morrow

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I first met Dean DeSensi when I joined the Graduate Council in 2011. I had no idea what I was supposed to do and Joy was always patient with me and every question I had. I've never seen someone so organized. What I remember most about her is that no matter where we were, whether we were at a campus event, a defense, or a meeting, there was always a student or colleague running up to her to give her a hug. Joy made an impact on many of us. She will be greatly missed.

Kelsie Saxe

Please share your memories of Professor Joy DeSensi.

Dr. Joy DeSensi was the most noble, exemplary, and humble scholar and professor. She embodied everything she taught and ignited fires within students to be better human beings, scholars, and critical thinkers. She embraced everyone and served as though she was above no one. Dr. DeSensi, you will be forever missed and remembered for your humility, kind nature, immense contribution to students and the field of sport management, and the mean Christmas parities you hosted.

Mitch McGill

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I had Dr. Desensi's night class as a graduate student. Normally, those Monday night classes are dreadful.
But, Dr. D made learning fun, and she taught me to look at all angles in that Ethics in Sport class.
She had a way of engaging all students while not making anyone feel threatened or uneasy.
I greatly appreciate all she did for me as I moved away from Tennessee and have used those skills in other places.
She will truly be missed, and I am thankful for those valuable lessons she taught.

Ted Butryn

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First off, my most heartfelt wishes go to Joy's close friends and family. I did both my UG and PhD degrees at UT, and during my doctoral studies, she was an absolute rock of support and encouragement from the second I started the program. She went way out of her way to facilitate my creation of a stress management course, and walked me through my very first article submission. Even when it was rejected, she picked my back up and taught me my first real lesson about the resilience needed to be in academia. The other vivid memory I have of Joy is her willingness, even as department chair, to take time, sometimes more than was necessary, to sit and talk with students. It always felt like a privilege being invited in to her office, books lining the shelves for what seemed like miles, and getting the chance to pick her brain, ask for advice, or just talk about something I'd read! She was profoundly giving and gracious, and her leadership and oversight (along with Handel Wright) of the Cultural Studies unit is the reason I am sitting in my office at San Jose State today. She was ahead of her time in many ways, and like so many others, I hope to keep her torch burning for many of the issues that she wrote on and stood for.
Sincerely,
Ted Butryn

Traci Yates

Please share your memories of Professor Joy DeSensi.

As it turned out, mine was the last doctoral committee Dr. DeSensi chaired at UTK. And I can still vividly remember the email she sent with a gentle nudge suggesting I might want to get a move on if I wanted to complete my work before she retired! By the time it was all said and done, I briefly considered not participating in the hooding ceremony. But when I realized it would be personally significant to Dr. DeSensi, we made a pact. If she could make it, I would be there. I'll never regret that decision, because I will carry that memory forever. Of course I wish for more time with her, but I am also beyond grateful for what we had. Rest in peace, Dr. D.

Beth Bradley

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I had the pleasure of working with Joy both before and while she was at the Graduate School. She was a role model for me as an academic administrator, and as a breast cancer survivor.

Kayla Whitt

Please share your memories of Professor Joy DeSensi.

I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to know Joy DeSensi. Although we only knew each other for two short years, I’ll forever cherish the phone calls, cards, and visits from her. Joy’s thoughtfulness and strength is such an inspiration to myself and many others. She touched the lives of countless people and will be greatly missed.

Bob Rider

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Dr. Joy DeSensi was a good friend and colleague. She was also the consummate professional and leader; one who everyone who knew her respected. The Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, the University of Tennessee, and the many sport organizations Joy served over her 40 years as a professional will miss her greatly.

Emily McCluskey

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She always added a vibrant and professional outlook at our Board of Visitors meetings. Her vision, her leadership and her dedication was exemplary. She will be missed.

Susannah Knust

Please share your memories of Professor Joy DeSensi.

Dr. D. was such a wise woman who demonstrated so much care. She was willing to invest time in students and truly wanted the best for us. She listened well and was a delightful hostess. She has had a role in shaping me both as a professional as well as a human. With much gratitude.

Vincent Pisano

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In the spring of 2012, I was having some bad times. Being New to the area and university, I sought out Dr. DeSensi, she not only understood my situation, but she was kind, thoughtful, and compassionate through the entire process. She not only helped me, we spoke for a good 90 minutes about my goals and my aspirations. She inspired me to never give up, and assured me I was in the right path. Thank you, Dr. DeSensi, for being a kind, gentle soul, may you rest in peace