JoAn Cooks puts her whole being into the work and causes that motivate her. It has been a journey of eclectic involvements from community college teaching in the field of textiles, retail management, serving in roles in the African-American community, and serving on the Tempe History Society board.
Myrale JoAn Cooks was born in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, and graduated from JFK Memorial High School in her hometown. She enrolled in Harris Teachers College in St. Louis for a year. Friends there introduced her husband-to-be, Charles E. Cooks.
She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in clothing and textiles in business from Arizona State University, then gained her master’s degree in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University. JoAn worked as an advertising coordinator for the Phoenix-area Cloth World stores and served as the store manager for Cloth World in the Uptown Plaza. Later, she taught clothing construction part-time on the faculty of South Mountain Community College in a career change. She took a full-time job at Mesa Community College in the childcare center for experience working with young children on the advice of a faculty member at ASU.
JoAn also worked as the office coordinator at a childcare center and was office coordinator in the Student Services Administration at Mesa Community College where she spent over 20 years as an academic program adviser.
For two years, JoAn was secretary of the East Valley NAACP under the leadership of its then-president, the Rev. Helen Hunter. Additionally, she was vice president of the East Valley’s family support group of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill or NAMI. At Mesa Community College, she was club adviser for the African American Unity Coalition. At MCC, she was honored as the Club Adviser of the Year. JoAn spent more than 15 years as a pianist at Holy Trinity A.M.E. Church. The church honored her with awards for excellence in lay pastoral work in 2010 and again in March 2020. In 2017, she traveled with a group to Thailand on a church mission trip where they provided a vacation bible program for children through the East Asia Pacific Conference. She was named Woman of the Year at Holy Trinity in 2009.
JoAn also received a certificate of completion in Visions Career Development from Maricopa Community Colleges. She was chairman of the African American Advisory Committee, 2017-19. The NAACP recognized her for her participation in the 2008 African American Youth Leadership Conference.
Her husband, Charles, worked for about 39 years in Job Corps. They would live in Lincoln, Nebraska, Moses Lake, Washington, and then Phoenix. Charles passed away in 2013. The couple had been married 46 years. JoAn has two daughters, a son (deceased) and three grandchildren.