Skip To Main Content


I will always remember Joanne for her smile and the pure joy she felt being around our students. Not only did she love the students, but they loved her as well. They often couldn’t wait to give her a hug or to share something special with her. She gave so much of herself to our school and community over the years and I will truly miss her love and her presence. Joanne was one of a kind and I feel so fortunate to have known her.

~Laura Bradford, McGillis Faculty & Parent of Lucas '25

When I was little I remember her visiting Kindergarten and she was being very nice to everyone even though she didn’t know them.

~Xavi '26

When I was younger, Ms. McGillis would give everyone a hug and a piece of taffy if she saw them. She was always so kind and caring to everyone.

~Kai '24

Joanne was our next-door neighbor for the last 27 years;  her intellect was keen and so were her many letters to the Tribune editors. She was a lifelong, strong Democrat and we shared the civic news often;  she was no shrinking violet on political issues.

~ Dick & Kaye Giauque, Friends

I remember her walking around school with a smile on her face giving all the kids taffy… she used to always come in the classrooms and share little stories. One time she hugged me and smiled so big. She made me so happy in those years. She filled my younger years with joy and love. It pours a deep hole in my heart knowing she has passed. I hope for her soul to be happy. She deserves it to be loved and happy after she made so many kids happy. We will miss you Ms. McGillis!

~Eliza '20

Joanne was always very supportive of my work as an Art Specialist at the school and I appreciated her enthusiastic comments to me about our student's work. It meant so much to me that she believed strongly in having a visual art program for the students. As a result of her own background in art, she offered a special Gala Art and Food Experience which I was happy to facilitate several times, helping with supplies and set up. She was a lovely person and one-of-a kind. I will always remember her kindness to me.

~Deborah McDermott, Former McGillis Faculty & Parent of Colin '01 & Aiden '06 

Because of Mrs. McGillis, we have an amazing community where hundreds of people come to learn. Without her, I would never have gotten the chance to learn and meet all these amazing people. Thank you so much!

~Chloe '24

I loved when she passed us taffy and cookies in the halls. It was really sweet. I will miss seeing her. 

~Wyatt '24

I liked it when she came into our classroom and complimented all of our work. She will be missed. 

~Annabelle '28

The phrase “I love you” was never absent from each of Joanne’s visits to The McGillis School. Her presence always filled our space with joy and care. She was a remarkable human, and I am forever grateful for her. You will be missed, Mrs. McGillis. 

~ Maggie McCormick, McGillis Faculty & Parent of Olive '24 & Callum '28

My son Yusuf, and I share the community this moment of sadness and we appreciate all the hard Joanne and her family did for the school that many people cherished. May her soul be blessed and remain in our memories. Our Thoughts and Prayers to her and beloved one!

~Osman Ahmed, Parent of Yusuf '20

Our generation of McGillis parents and kids were so lucky to have had Joanne in our lives and in the life of the school! I remember the time she came and met with the Parent Association one morning and shared stories of the early days of the school. She spoke in her characteristically direct manner - with plenty of humorous asides -about the early debates over whether to become an independent organization and how to most appropriately incorporate Jewish practices into the life of the school.  Her vision was so clear and so focused on the six Jewish values that were obviously also the guiding principles of her own public life. Joanne, we will miss you, and we will carry forward the legacy that you and Dick established! 

~Matthew Weinstein, Former Trustee & Parent of Rachel '18

Students flocked to Joanne for a chance sweet, kind word or gentle hug. I will always cherish the memory of waiting in line for my turn.

~Paul Chung, McGillis Faculty & Parent of Parker '20 & Miller '21

Ms. McGillis, thank you for shining your bright and beautiful light on this community for so many years!  

~Cassi Lanie, McGillis Faculty and Parent of Emmit '24

The first time I met Joanne was when I worked for Wolfe’s Sporting Goods. Wolfe’s was the competitor of Dick and Joanne’s sporting goods store, Sunset Sports. Many years later I had the opportunity to work for them at The McGillis School. Just seeing the love that Joanne had for the school and especially the kids, has made my time at this school awe inspiring. The students would run to greet her whenever she came to visit and tell her how much they loved her and for giving them McGillis. She always had a hug or a sweet gesture to each and every student. I can’t thank her enough for giving me 23 years of this magical school. Thank you Joanne. We will miss you.

~Shelley Lortsher, McGillis Faculty

I am deeply saddened at the news of Joanne's passing.  As a new employee at the McGillis School several years ago, I found myself being asked to sit next to Joanne at a school play.  I had not yet met her and was intimidated to be sitting with the School's namesake benefactor. I introduced myself, sat down by her and she immediately began comfortably chatting - about the play, asking about my role, my family. She charmed me right out of the gate. As time went on, I looked forward to her visits to the School.  "Hello gorgeous!" I would yell to her from as far away as I could, hoping to make a scene and cause Joanne some unsolicited embarrassment.  She would give me a warm hug and say "Ugh, today I'm not feeling it!" Joanne was generous in every way and we are all better for having known her.  Peace to the McGillis family and to all who where touched by Joanne and a special thank you to Farron for her kindness and care.

...Goodbye, gorgeous.

~Micheal VanTyne, McGillis Staff & Parent of Anya '22

I remember when I was in elementary school, pre covid, Mrs.McGillis would give us blue sugar cookies after our lunch at the end of the year. She was very generous because she promised to make one for every kid in the school. She also made sure that she was the one handing out the cookies to the kids. It made the lunches and the school feel more like home.

~ Ella '23

Every time Joanne said goodbye during one of her many visits, she would blow the kindergarteners a kiss and say "I love you!"  Students really felt her love and belief in them as students of McGillis even though she didn't know them well.  Her visits and presence will be missed.  

~Stacey Collett, McGillis Faculty and Parent of Olivia '19


I remember when I was in kindergarten and she came into our class and we all ran and gave her hugs. She gave Dylan and I kisses on our heads.

~ Wilkes '23