Joanie Dugger, who spent years campaigning for Upper Arlington school levies and raising money to support classroom programs and new learning opportunities for students, died Feb. 22, less than a year after she retired as director of the Upper Arlington Education Foundation.

Dugger, 56, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer more than two years ago. She retired from the UA+Ed March 31, 2018, after serving as director for 17 years.

When she left the foundation, it had 60 funds that provided assistance for everything from students in financial need to college scholarships for specific areas of study and athletics, as well as for technology and other equipment that could be integrated into classrooms.

She also founded and for many years led the foundation's signature fundraiser, the Golden Bear Bash, an annual gala that, when she stepped down, had raised nearly $1 million to support local students and schools.

Additionally, Dugger co-chaired four successful Upper Arlington Schools levy campaigns and was an executive director of the Upper Arlington Alumni Association.

"I can think of no better ambassador for our community, nor cheerleader for our district, than Joanie," schools Superintendent Paul Imhoff said. "Everything she did came from a place of love and gratitude -- a true passion for Upper Arlington.

"Over the decades, she had such a positive impact through the growth of the education foundation and the expansion of its grant program, the creation of the Golden Bear Bash and the beginning of the UAHS Alumni Open House, just to name a few.

"But Joanie wasn't one to take credit for any of these things," Imhoff said. "Instead, she enjoyed stepping out of the spotlight and letting others have a moment to shine."

Dugger's husband of 31 years, Glen, said his wife "was pretty tough all the way through" her illness and endured it with positivity and dignity.

He said she wouldn't want people to remember her for the disease.

"She was a consensus-builder," he said. "She was great at getting people energized behind an idea or a goal."

Dugger was a lifelong Upper Arlington resident. After her birth March 7, 1962, at Ohio State University Hospital, she was raised in a home on Welsford Road and graduated from UAHS in 1980.

She graduated from Miami University in 1984, where she was a Delta Delta Delta sorority member.

After marrying Glen in 1987, the couple raised three children in the community, Sarah Jane (Paul) Germain, Teddy and Abigail.

"Besides being a wonderful wife and mother, she was a great friend," Glen said. "She just had a lot of people who considered her a friend and that's because she was a good friend."

In announcing her retirement last February, Dugger noted she had seen administrators at every school in the district and at the central office change at least once during her tenure at the UA+Ed.

She said she was "most proud of helping educators secure extra funding allowing them to provide really extraordinary educational opportunities for our students."

"Together, we have made great progress in achieving our mission of 'enhancing what matters most,' " dugger said.

Current UA+Ed Director Alice Finley, who worked alongside Dugger as program and project specialist for the foundation, said Dugger embodied the district's motto of "Serve, Lead, Succeed."

"With her amazing spirit and positivity, Joanie brought us together to make each other better," Finley said. "She served as a cheerleader in high school and continued to lead all of us to give of ourselves to enhance the education of students throughout the district.

"Every day I am part of the education foundation without her by my side, I am reminded of the foundation she nurtured for 17 years. I will never fill her shoes, but I will do my best to further her passion for 'Every Student, Every Step of the Way.' "

The Dugger family will receive friends from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at Schoedinger Northwest Chapel, 1740 Zollinger Road. The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, March 4, at Trinity United Methodist Church, 1581 Cambridge Blvd., with a private interment immediately following at St. Joseph Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorial contributions be made to the James Cancer Hospital at the Ohio State University, Gynecologic Oncology Research Fund, 320 W. 10th Ave., Columbus, Ohio 43210; https://tinyurl.com/y2tmvrrn

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate