Joan H. Ballots

Some Temple devotees wear their love on their sleeve. Joan H. Ballots wears her affection for Temple on her head.

Ballots is the proud owner of a red cap adorned with the pins and mementos that symbolize her devotion to Temple basketball. If Ballots is at the game (and she is a self-proclaimed Owls addict who rarely misses one), the hat is there too.

“It’s got to weigh three pounds by now,” she says with a hearty laugh.

But don’t let her playful headgear mislead you: Ballots is as serious about seeing extraordinary things happen in the classroom as on the playing field.

“I’ve tried to make a difference at Temple. This place is very, very important to me,” she said.

Over the years, Ballots and her late husband, John, have been devoted supporters of Temple, and since his death 15 years ago, she has helped underwrite efforts to build partnerships with schools in the community around Temple. A teacher for 35 years, Ballots appreciates the difference Temple is making in local schools.

“It is vitally important to promote excellence with our partnership schools in the Temple community. I know; I’ve seen what good schools can do,” she said.

A respect for Temple runs in Ballots’ Philadelphia family. Her grandfather, George Hessdoerfer, was a leather tannery operator who took classes from Russell Conwell back in the 1890s. Her father, Harry Hessdoerfer, attended Temple some 30 years later, before entering medical school.

When it was Joan Ballots’ turn, she was a highly active Temple student, participating on four varsity teams and the student government before being recognized as an outstanding senior. (She went on to earn a master of science degree in psychology from the University of Bridgeport.)

After she graduated from Temple and went on to New Canaan, Conn., as a physical education teacher, she was always on the watch for students who needed focus and motivation.

A large part of her affection for the basketball team is rooted in the relationship with her late husband, John Ballots. A basketball star in high school, he was heavily recruited by colleges and universities.

“He had 37 basketball offers, and he chose to come to Temple!” she said with some pride.

Over the next several years, John became a standout on the Temple team while earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He went on to get his dental degree from Temple too. (The Ballots have quietly provided scholarship dollars for students who, like John, want to pursue a career in dentistry. Both the men’s and women’s head coaching positions have been endowed by her generous gifts.) While he was a Dental School student and she a recent graduate, John and Joan found they were both counselors at the summer program put on by legendary coach Harry Litwack. Basketball brought them together, so it seemed appropriate to solemnize the mutual attraction.

“We had a day off from camp, so we eloped!” Ballots recalled.

They moved to New Canaan, where John set up his dental practice and Joan started her career as middle school teacher and coach.

“That’s when I really began to appreciate what Temple did for me. You know, you really don’t realize the quality of the education you received at Temple until you’re out in the work force,” she said.

Her public career has included nine years on the New Canaan Town Council and numerous civic responsibilities. For example, she was elected secretary of the town council, held several posts with the Republican Town Committee in New Canaan, and was a delegate to numerous state conventions.

The recipient of many honors, she is especially proud of receiving the F. Eugene Dixon Jr. award from the Temple University General Alumni Association for “strong and loyal support” of Temple athletics.

Through it all, there’s been Temple basketball. Over the years, she has met many players and talked with them about their experiences in the classroom. Her affection for the team members is readily apparent when she boasts about the academic and career achievements of “my kids.”

“I hope that I am able to make a difference at Temple,” she said. “My major focus has been the quality of the undergraduate education.”

And she has made a vow: “I’m going to keep wearing this hat until we get into the Final Four.”

If heartfelt dedication counts for anything, Joan Ballots will be in the front row when that day comes.

- By Ray Betzner

2005 Temple Times