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Dear Joyce: A tribute

Joyce Slocum
Devin DeLeon
Joyce Slocum

TPR invited its staff, listeners and community members to contribute their memories of Joyce Slocum and reflect on what she meant to them, both professionally and personally.

Some contributions have been edited for style, clarity or consistency.

Working with Joyce was a delight. She called me soon after I retired from NPR after 36 years. She wanted a first rate news operation at TPR. How can she do it? This was a dream consulting job filled with opportunities. Joyce was a great leader. She hired a team that was first-rate. She brought diversity into the operation. She took risks. She inspired. She wasn’t afraid to change course when something didn’t work. She transformed TPR into a powerhouse news operation. Audience exploded. The news team won award after award. The community took notice. I’ll miss her. It was an honor to work with her. Her legacy lives on.

— Ellen McDonnell, former head of news for NPR

Her name has become ubiquitous with TPR, and I will miss her leadership that convinced me to become a sustaining member. I believe in her legacy and the work of all those that bring this service to my community. Thank you.

— Jacob Hernandez

Thank everyone for your effusive praise. Joyce and her brothers, Mike and Greg, have been my life. I have always believed that losing a child is the worst pain a person can experience, and I still do. But the love and respect universally given to "my little girl" makes it easier. Thank you.

— Doris MacDaniel

What I remember is that Joyce was always "hineni" fully HERE, with a smile and warmth. One event at her house, I noticed a menorah, and she shared her spiritual journey. Oh, Joyce, we miss you!

— Stan F. Drezek

Texas Public Radio President and CEO Joyce Slocum
TPR archive
Joyce Slocum

Many, many recognitions of the blessings bestowed on journalism and executive leadership by Joyce have been and will be written. At the end of all the accolades, what I see to be her greatest gift to the world is how she touched, encouraged and made lives better of the many people with whom she worked at TPR. You can see — in her team — the power of her positive spirit, her remarkable determination and her relentless drive to change the world for the better.

There are lyrics of a well-known piece of music that I feel begin to reflect her energy, her leadership, her legacy:

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains.
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders.
You raise me up to more than I can be.
— Brendan Graham and Rolf Lovland

Cheers to you, Joyce. You have all our heartfelt thanks.

— Nancy Arispe Shaw, UT Health San Antonio

One of Joyce's last gifts to the TPR staff was a custom designed ice cream bowl and specialty ice cream scoop. The bowl, co-designed by Joyce and long-time TPR supporter Dudley Harris, was in signature TPR "Turple" and prominently featured the letters J-O-Y. The bowls came with a beautiful message I won't get into here, but I feel it was a way of letting us know without letting us know. Let's try to live our lives with joy in tribute to Joyce. She wouldn't want it any other way.

— Norma Martinez, host of TPR's "Morning Edition" and "Fronteras"

Joyce is my niece who seemed more like my daughter. We shared a room when I moved to Dallas and stood up for each other against her mom’s anger. She set goals for herself at a very young age and did a marvelous job attaining all of them. She had no hierarchy of friends — everyone was her equal. She was the reason I held one of the best jobs I ever had with Lyrick/HIT Entertainment. My heart is broken that she left us much too soon.

— Irene Lagarde

I’m among the hundreds or more likely thousands of those who have been personally blessed by Joyce Slocum. I was lucky to work closely with her at NPR while she was in big, important senior leadership roles, and I was just someone on the communications team. Of course, she never treated me like that. She gave me incredible opportunities, many chances to succeed, and critical feedback when I needed it.

Joyce helped me recognize and grow innate skills I never knew I had. I learned from her the nuances of how to work with leaders to create effective executive communications, skills I use practically every day in my career. She wrote a beautiful letter recommending me for a graduate program that I go back and read from time to time when I need a pep talk.

She’s genuinely nice, great at keeping it real, and the calmest voice in the most chaotic rooms. Watching her live these traits as naturally as breathing and observing the positivity that came from her presence always made me want to try and be a little more like Joyce. I’m so grateful we crossed paths and how she touched my life. I’ll miss her.

— Emily Hellewell

Only a few days ago, Joyce, you moved to a new and eternal role in our cosmos. As wrenching as it was to have you leave us, you accomplished and left us so much that lives on, stands in concrete and tangible ways and no less in our hearts and memories. While we miss you Joyce — terribly — we are thankful we had you for as long as we did. You are truly a beacon of light, truth, joy and love for the ages.

— Alice Diamant

The lawyer and media executive used her intelligence and principles as a moral force to shepherd both NPR and TPR through turbulent times.

Joyce Slocum was instrumental in the development of Texas Public Radio from an organization of modest size and ambition to one whose reach and influence is recognized nationwide, yet with a deep passion for storytelling rooted in South Texas. During her decade as president and CEO, the staff of TPR increased more than 60%. This grew our capability to produce meaningful, award-winning news, arts programming, and public events that educate, entertain, and enlighten tens of thousands.

Early in her tenure, the development of what is now the Irma and Emilio Nicolas Media Center became a lodestar for Joyce, the board of directors, and staff. Joyce’s vision was that TPR would have ample physical space not only for its growing staff, but most importantly, TPR would be a gathering place for the public to come together in moments of civil dialogue and cultural appreciation.

What a beautiful sentiment that the building sits alongside San Pedro Creek, where ideas flow like the water that brought people to its banks for generations -- and will continue to do the same.

I personally appreciate the freedom and creativity that Joyce granted to staff to innovate, develop, and carry out projects and ideas. In my last visit with her I told her as much, and she said she knew that the staff would continue that spirit in the years to come. She said, “I’m proud of you all.” As we are of her.

Nathan Cone, TPR vice president of cultural and community engagement

Joyce Slocum, who led both NPR and Texas Public Radio into a new era for public media, died Sunday from complications of colon cancer.

Joyce’s passing is a tremendous loss for TPR and the public media sector. Because of her impact as NPR’s interim CEO, Joyce was admired and respected across the industry. Moreover, her ambitious vision for TPR has made it one of the leaders among public media organizations.

Since starting at TPR, Joyce oversaw a pivot to more local content, the development of an award-winning newsroom, an expansion to podcasts and Spanish-language news, a commitment to events that serve TPR’s community, and a state-of-the-art headquarters in downtown San Antonio.

Looking ahead, the board is working closely with TPR’s strong executive team, and we are confident that TPR will continue its commitment to excellence in reporting, programming and service to the community.

— Lori Castillo, TPR board chair

Texas Public Radio President and CEO Joyce Slocum
Devin DeLeon
Joyce Slocum

I had the pleasure of getting know Joyce by volunteering during fund drives. I tried my best to work the final hours of the drive to be at the studio for the champagne celebration and especially enjoyed those interactions. Serving on the Community Advisory Board for a number of years, I got to know Joyce even better. Joyce never missed an opportunity to thank members for their support and those were the last words I heard from her as we spoke at the recent Pinnacle dinner. We were so fortunate to have her leadership and none of us will ever forget her.

— Lynn Knapik

One of my first memories of Joyce was a week or so after I first started at TPR. Our receptionist at the time was having personal issues, and I saw her walking down the hall crying, with Joyce next to her with her arm around her shoulder comforting her. This was our CEO? The last place I worked, I don’t think the CEO even knew the name of our receptionist.

Joyce was everything a CEO should be. She was tough when she had to be, but always compassionate and caring. She had so many accolades in her life, but you would never know it talking to her because she was so down to earth. You always knew you had a listening ear with her, whether it was for a problem at work or because your dog died.

She was generous with praise, but not so loose with it that it was meaningless — a complement from her could make your week. I also loved her sense of humor and will miss hearing “my Granny used to say …” I always told her she needed to write a book about those sayings.

She was just simply an exquisite person.

— Terri Deosdade, TPR controller

I will always remember when I learned that Joyce and Barbra Streisand shared the same birthday. On April 24, 2023, I was only two months into working at TPR. I emailed Joyce to say "happy birthday" and that I thought it was cool she shared a birthday with the famous singer and actress. She thanked me and said, "It's nice to be in good company like Streisand." It soon became one of our conversation starters when we ran into each other.

Joyce always made sure to acknowledge the hard work of the newsroom that she was so proud of. I will never forget when she sent me a nice email about my coverage of a local election, despite having a rough day with her chemo. Even then, she still took the time to send over encouragement and light. This meant so much to me.

The ripples of her work in public media continue to live on through all of us.

— Kayla Padilla, reporter and producer, "The Source"

Texas has lost a champion for press freedom and a leader at Texas Public Radio.Joyce Slocum died this week from complications from colon cancer. We are going to take some time to remember and celebrate Joyce who told us to dare to listen, be civil in our discourse and to be inclusive.

I remember Joyce for her absolute pizzaz and love of life, her joie de vivre. One time she told me that she adored her cars and driving, and I thought that was a great thing to be so happy about. She was very attentive and thoughtful about her employees — indeed she was the embodiment of kindness. To me in particular she showed nothing but concern and solicitude. To be the CEO and responsible for the success and growth of an entity such as TPR is an awesome responsibility and yet she handled it with grace and — again, that word I'll always associate with Joyce — kindness.

— Deirdre Saravia, host and producer, "World Music"

Joyce and I had a running laugh between us — a quote from the show My So-Called Life: "Honey, I'm a Jewish girl from Texas. I'm your worst nightmare." But Joyce, given her double-barreled dose of fire and tenacity, was no one's nightmare. I never saw her lose her cool, never saw her flag in her desire to do things right — and, when persuaded of a better way, never saw her fruitlessly stick to the old way. On so many levels she was the kind of person we should all aspire to be — balancing a firm hand of leadership with familial warmth, a desire to excel with a commitment to do so without crushing anyone's spirit. TPR won't be the same without her; but that's only because it wouldn't have become what it is today without her.

— Barry Brake, host, "Classical Connections"

Joyce Slocum
Devin DeLeon
Joyce Slocum

“Chona had never been one to play by the rules of American society. She did not experience the world as most people did. To her, the world was not a china closet where you admire this and don’t touch that. Rather, she saw it as a place where every act of living was a chance for tikkun olam, to improve the world.”
— James McBride, The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store

During one of the last conversations I had with Joyce, she mentioned that she was reading The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store, a novel by James McBride. She smiled broadly and said she was “trying to savor every page” and didn’t want the book to end because she was enjoying it so much.

I’ve always known that Joyce loved books, loved to read so much. I told her I’d interviewed the great James McBride on the "Book Public" podcast. “I know,” she said. “I listen.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about that book and what it was specifically that could have captured Joyce’s imagination. I mean, she was beaming when she talked about looking forward to going home and reading a few more pages.

The novel is set in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. There is a mystery that frames the story. Evidence of a murder is discovered in 1972 on the opening pages. However, the story really starts in the 1920s with the residents of Chicken Hill, a low-income neighborhood where African Americans live alongside immigrant Jews.

Chona Ludlow runs the eponymous Heaven & Earth Grocery Store — sometimes giving away more wares than she sells. Moshe is her loving husband. He integrated the theatre he owns, opening his doors to everyone.

A Black child named Dodo is orphaned, and everyone fears he will be taken to the Pennhurst State Hospital because he is deaf. Chona and Moshe and the other neighbors are aware that there are negative forces there. They fear the boy will be neglected — or worse.

It is Chona — with the help of a Black neighbor and janitor from the theater — who keeps the boy safe for a time — inside the store. Things don’t go as planned, alas …

There are highs and lows, suspense, and tension — tears — with this story. But more than anything else — there is love from a community where everyone looks out for each other.

Joyce’s tenure at Texas Public Radio included celebrating the arts — with the community. Her role also included overseeing the news — informing that same community — in English and Spanish — about difficult events and situations.

McBride’s novel also captures contentious times. And he offers an important idea through his book that Joyce seems to have understood, too.

What ultimately emerges is that these folks from Chicken Hill live in the margins—in all kinds of ways. Even for their differences and difficulties, they understand that they all struggle, work, love and give of themselves. These are the things that element the community they helped create — even in the face of challenging times. The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store freely gives over love, friendship, and generosity to anyone who enters that space where being in a community is what matters most.

I’m grateful to Joyce Slocum for reminding us — the TPR community — of this exact same idea — through word and deed and a generosity of spirit that endures.

— Yvette Benavides, contributing editor, "Noticias," host, "Book Public" and "The Lonely Voice with Peter Orner"

Joyce Slocum with Dan Katz, TPR's vice president of news.
Lux Vinci
Joyce Slocum with Dan Katz, TPR's vice president of news.

Joyce was that rare executive that not only hires talented people but then gives them room to grow into their very best selves.

I am so thankful to have worked for her but for far too few years. I am comforted, however, that her bold vision for Texas Public Radio lives on in every one of us fortunate enough to see her at her best self here at Texas Public Radio.

— Brian Kirkpatrick, TPR general assignment reporter

Joyce had been at TPR just a few weeks when she started sending a mysterious email to all staff. The subject line read: “The first three people . . .”

Once opened, the email continued with a statement that the first three to reply would be invited to have a group lunch with her, with the stipulation we had to select a local eatery. I think I was in the third group to have a turn to dine with Joyce. My colleagues and I decided we’d take her to the famous Chris Madrid’s burger joint. After visiting for an hour and a half, as the conversation started to dwindle, Joyce thanked us for the visit and then with a very matter-of-fact tone asked, “what do I need to know; what do I need to fix?”

We three staff looked at one another (I think afraid to speak), and I finally did, saying I’d love to see aesthetic improvements to our office and continued with I felt that we needed to produce a TPR cookbook because of all the fabulous food served at our monthly potluck. In short order (and to my surprise) Joyce made improvements to our reception area and breakroom and workspaces and began asking for submissions for the TPR cookbook, Food for Thought!

Joyce took to heart connecting with people and what was said to her. From minor suggestions regarding the work place and producing a cookbook, to the monumental achievements in her 10-year tenure, she was a get-er done leader that will be truly missed!

— Cindy Alleman, TPR corporate support account executive

Joyce was a leader in public media who strengthened the organizations she led. Her stewardship of @TPRNews contributed to communities across the state, especially San Antonio, where she helped solidify the institution's presence. She will be missed.

— Ron Nirenberg, San Antonio mayor

To know Joyce was to be in the presence of someone who saw the endless possibilities and had the vision to make them into reality. I had the opportunity to work, as outside counsel, with Joyce when she was with HIT Entertainment, and the impression she made, along with her insightful, compassionate and strong leadership, left an indelible mark.

— Angelo Mazza

During my college years, I had the privilege of completing two incredible internships at TPR, where I had the fortune to meet Joyce. Beyond her monumental role in both national and local public radio, Joyce was an extraordinary mentor and friend to me. I will always cherish the moments we shared.

— Dani Trevino, former TPR intern

Joyce Slocum
TPR archive
Joyce Slocum

I only knew Joyce for a short time during my internship at Texas Public Radio. I had limited, brief interactions with her but those interactions were always filled with kindness, and she was such a light in public media with all of her amazing work. She will be deeply missed.

— Kirsten Staple, former TPR intern

Texas Public Radio was the first place that believed in me and gave me a job in 2016 when I first got my green card. I will be forever grateful to Joyce for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to be part of TPR for five years. As a woman in leadership, Joyce believes in “women supporting women” and introduced me to my first mentor, and that has a big influence in my professional career. Thank you, Joyce.

— April Orci, former TPR employee

Tragic news. Joyce has been the heart of TPR for the past 10 years. My thoughts go out to her and her family. God bless.

— Willam Reynolds

Joyce was a visionary, compassionate leader who built a team of dedicated and loyal people. Sympathy to her family. Colonoscopies can save lives. I was fortunate — mine had been growing for eight years, and I never knew it. No symptoms. They caught it just in time. Please, please let this lovely woman's passing be an alert for people to get checked. AND — there is an increasing number of incidents in people in their 50s.

— Nancy Foster

Joyce was the enthusiastic voice I heard throughout TPR’s growth — pledge drives, critical TPR updates, and occasional commentary. I always imagined her doing mighty things behind the scenes.

— Christopher Murawski

I was just speaking about Joyce earlier in the week with a few colleagues here at KRTU. Joyce has been an incredible champion of public media, and we have been extremely fortunate to have her here in San Antonio, leading our city's NPR station. My best wishes to her family and the greater TPR family, I'm keeping you all in my thoughts.

— JJ Lopez, KRTU

Joyce Slocum with Robert Siegel, former host of 'All Things Considered.'
Cindy Kelleher
Joyce Slocum with Robert Siegel, former host of 'All Things Considered.'

I am so deeply indebted to Joyce and her TPR team for supporting my podcast on caregiving. It would not have happened were it not for the tremendous respect Joyce has in SA and the esteem for her station TPR.

— Kitty Eisele

Became a sustaining member of TPR today in her memory. Such a loss for Texas.

— Liz Addison

Rest in peace. She was a lovely person and a tremendous leader and role model. May her memory be a blessing to all who knew her.

— Dolly Schoreder

Sincere condolences to her family. She made a lasting important impact in San Antonio and beyond. May her memory be a blessing.

— Cecilie Armstrong

Such a bright light Joyce was — so much good she brought. I feel so lucky to have met her and felt the sunshine.

— Susan Price

She made TPR a place for fair and honest news. We need more of that in this world.

— JoAnn King

Joyce Slocum with Robert Salluce, TPR's vice president of marketing and communications (left) and Guillermo Nicolas.
Lux Vinci
Joyce Slocum with Robert Salluce, TPR's vice president of marketing and communications (left) and Guillermo Nicolas.

Joyce was the quintessential "southern woman", and she will forever serve as the standard of that definition. From her handwritten notes on personalized stationery, her insistence on using a fountain pen, and her trademark white shirts with monogrammed cuffs; she was so uniquely and demonstratively, Joyce.

She possessed an extraordinary ability, a superpower, that effortlessly made you feel like old friends from the moment you met her. Regardless of your profession or social standing, she was always engaging, always welcoming, always kind. She had a quick, razor-sharp wit about her that could disarm the surliest of people. They would come to her with an agenda, but in the end, she would know their mama’s name and their greatest childhood fear as they’d exchange phone numbers and promises of “getting together soon.” Their bewilderment usually hit at the elevator, and I could never quite suppress my smile.

The palpable depth and weight of her absence lingers here, and I find myself peering into her office reliving memories in my mind. I miss her laugh, her stories, her straightforward advice, along with countless other things that elude appropriate words but are keenly felt. We were so blessed to have had her. We miss you, Joyce.

— Stephanie Van Dyk, Executive Assistant to the President and CEO

I think the thing that I will remember most about Joyce is how proud she was of all of us here at TPR. She always motivated us no matter the situation. She's one of the strongest women I had the pleasure of knowing. This is a poem I wrote that I think says the things I can’t put into any other form.

“The Gift Of Time”

We have been given the gift of time
The gift of moments and memories worth several lifetimes

Some big and momentous, some small and subtle
Lighting in a bottle frozen in time
Where we laughed, rejoiced and sometimes cried

Chances to sparkle
Chances to shine

Causes for conversation
Causes for celebration

We have been given the gift of time
The gift of cherished memories and moments

Snapshots to share
Deep conversations so rare
We hold them deep near our hearts
Calling to mind
The special times we shared
Words of wisdom, love of all kinds
The gift of once in a lifetimes

Time is precious
Time is transient

Thank you for being the beacon of shine
For the ultimate gift of time

— Jackie Velez, TPR news assistant

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.