Joan C. King-Tobet was a child of the Big Easy, born into an entrepreneurial family in New Orleans that owned and operated a local grocery store. Family life, within a large extended clan, centered on the kitchen where Joan developed a precocious talent for the singular tastes of New Orleans cuisine, a talent that brought no end of pleasure to family and friends throughout her life.
Experiencing the loss of her beloved father at the age of 10, Joan began a life-long quest for the substance underlying life. At age 17, she entered a Dominican convent to pursue studies in philosophy and theology, along with chemistry and physics. Ultimately, she found that convent culture was too restrictive for her thinking. Emerging from the convent as a young adult, Joan joined Vista and traveled to the far reaches of Appalachia to work with, and among, families in coal country.
Following Vista, Joan enrolled in graduate school to study science as a vehicle for further examining the biological bases of brain and behavior. She earned a one-of-a-kind multidisciplinary Ph.D. in Neuroanatomy and Psychology from Tulane University, pioneering as one of the few women in an emerging scientific field.
Joan engaged in basic research in neuroscience for the next 25 years, primarily as a Professor at Tufts University Schools of Medicine, working across medical, dental and veterinary schools. She served as Chair of the Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, in which role she developed and directed the Tufts University Center of Research in Reproduction. An award-winning lecturer, she imparted her passion, intellectual hunger, and boundless sense of the possible to multiple generations of students. In 1997, eager to embrace her next frontier, Joan retired as Chairman and became Professor Emerita.
Having rigorously pursued the processes of self-examination, self-reflection, and self-actualization, Joan designed a coaching consultancy, Beyond-Success LLC, to assist others in mining these processes. Utilizing the scientific principles explored over 30-plus years, Joan helped individuals move more deeply into their life experiences, using these principles as metaphors and tools to expand consciousness. She articulated her philosophy in a series of books: The Code of Authentic Living: Cellular Wisdom; A Life on Purpose: Wisdom at Work; Cellular Wisdom for Women: An Inner Work Book; She was actively living and working on Cellular Wisdom for Relationships: An Inner Work Book. In Joan’s own words, “The Cellular Wisdom series of books is not a declaration of dogma but rather a vehicle for sharing my insights about what our cells and our bodies can teach us about thriving in our lives as individuals and in relationship, from intimate to corporate from community to planetary. My books are intended to stimulate you, the reader, to explore and uncover your own insights.”
Joan is survived by her life and scientific collaborator of 36 years, Dr. Stuart A. Tobet; an extended family of cousins, nieces and nephews in New Orleans and around the country; a groundswell of deeply grateful friends, students, and mentees for whom Joan facilitated a profound shift in the way they view their worlds, and two bewitching black cats who remained by her side.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, and in recognition of the pay-it-forward principle which was a foundation of Joan’s life and work, the family requests that people pay kindness forward to perhaps 3 others and/or provide a donation to the Joan King Scholarship at Colorado State University. The Scholarship will support exceptional students with an interest in science and engineering. Contributions may be made directly to the Colorado State University Foundation, P.O. BOX 1870, Fort Collins, Colorado 80522-1870 with the designation to the Joan King Scholarship or executed online at https://advancing.colostate.edu/KINGSCHOLARSHIP. Any questions may be directed to the Fund’s director at (970) 491-1624.