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Mother Xavier Award Recipient Profiles

2006 Recipient

2006 Recipient

Joanne M. Spahn has traveled worldwide helping thousands of people to live healthy and spiritually fit lives. Joanne's journey began while attending the College of Saint Elizabeth where she literally drove a van and helped clients at the Center for Independent Living Aged and Handicapped (CILAH). Before graduating from CSE in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition, Joanne was president of the Student Council, president of O'Connor Residence Hall, co-captain of the swim team, a member of the varsity volleyball and tennis teams as well as the Student Life Committee.

Joanne enrolled in the United States Air Force (USAF), beginning her military career in 1982 with an internship at Malcolm Grow USAF Medical Center at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. She moved to Oklahoma where she was Chief of Medical Food Services, Tinker USAF Hospital. From 1986 to 1989, she was Regional Consultant Dietitian for Tactical Air Command and director of nutritional services at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. In 1991, Joanne graduated with honors with a Master of Science in Human Nutrition from University of Arizona.

It was during this time that she met her husband John. One of the first things they did together as a couple was to take private pilot lessons, and their relationship literally "took off". They have been happily married for 18 years and have four children: Cindy, Christine, Patrick and Rose. Service in the military meant many moves for the family, which entailed new schools, job disruptions and saying goodbye to many friends. As a testament to their strong marriage and forward thinking as a couple, Joanne retired after 23 years in October, 2005. She admits, "It was the loving support of my husband and my children that allowed me the opportunity to serve my country and raise a family at the same time."

It was during this time that she met her husband John. One of the first things they did together as a couple was to take private pilot lessons, and their relationship literally "took off." They have been happily married for 18 years and have four children: Cindy, Christine, Patrick and Rose. Service in the military meant many moves for the family, which entailed new schools, job disruptions and saying goodbye to many friends. As a testament to their strong marriage and forward thinking as a couple, Joanne retired after 23 years in October, 2005. She admits, "It was the loving support of my husband and my children that allowed me the opportunity to serve my country and raise a family at the same time."

Her successful career as a registered dietitian has had a direct impact on the nutritional health of thousands of military personnel worldwide. She developed and authored The Sensible Weigh, the core program used by the Air Force for standardized weight management intervention. In addition, she was the developer of Shape Your Future...Your Weigh!TM, a community based initiative targeting prevention of overweight among Air Force personnel. She was a leader in the Air Force population health initiative, creating automated support for timely delivery of clinical preventive and disease management services to service members and their families worldwide. Joanne is very proud to have served as commander of an elite group of 275 medics who supported the troops. In recognition of her outstanding contributions to the Air Force, Joanne has received several key military decorations and numerous military awards.

Joanne considers her greatest accomplishment her family. "I am proud of each of my children and the choices they make in their lives. I am also proud to have successfully juggled a military career and family, enjoying each one thoroughly."

Joanne is also dedicated to assisting others in leading spiritually fit lives. "It is my faith/relationship with God that is my anchor. It drives my decision-making and gives me a tremendous feeling of peace," she says. Wherever she lives, she participates in her local parish, serving as a lector and a CCD teacher. She takes part in faith-sharing groups and plans retreats to help others renew their faith.

Joanne acknowledges that it was her mother, Viola Higgins Masterson, '50, recipient of the Mother Xavier Award in 2000, "who taught me the most important things in life through her word and example. She demonstrated how to live a Christ-centered life and helped me to build the confidence I needed to be different and forge my own path in life."

Joanne has dedicated her life to serving God, others and her country. In doing so, she has blessed the lives of many and is a shining example of the Mother Xavier legacy. The College of Saint Elizabeth proudly presents the 2006 Mother Xavier Award to Joanne M. Spahn, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A., class of 1982.

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