A standing ovation in order for Sister Joan


Layla Torres/XPress photo

Sister Joan’s dedication and love for Xavier earned her the Phoenix Business Journal’s Most Admired Leaders Award.

Through a virtual ceremony on December 1, 2020, Sister Joan Fitzgerald was awarded the Phoenix Business Journal’s Most Admired Leaders Award. This award is given to the most outstanding individuals recognized for their strong leadership demonstrated in their careers and community. 

According to Phoenix Business Journal, out of the 150 candidates, Sister Joan and 27 others were selected to receive this award. She was unanimously nominated as a result of her determination for seeing Xavier, and its students and faculty, succeed. 

Sister Joan was first introduced to Xavier in 1962 as a Spanish teacher. She was then promoted to  Xavier’s treasurer, and later promoted to vice principal. 

In 1974, Sister Joan became Xavier’s principal. In her administration she introduced Christian Service to the diocese, implemented several sports and activities and started Xavier’s dual enrollment program through Rio Salado Community College. She served as Xavier’s principal until June of 2016 when she then became Xavier’s first president. 

Her new title did not halt her caring actions. Sister Joan still continued innovating Xavier and aiding others.

“No one knows how many students she helps financially,” said Sister Lynn Winsor. “Say a faculty member or student loses a parent or a relative, she will be the first one there helping them financially or with any kind of support. But no one knows this about her; she’s much quieter, say, than I am.”

Denise Macrina, dean of students at Xavier, added, “Sr. Joan is beyond a leader. She is a mentor, a facilitator, a teacher, a woman of beliefs, especially in her faith, and a friend to all.  These characteristics all melt together to identify Sr. Joan.”

Sister Joan very humbly said, “We have such a wonderful school, that I get credit for, but the credit goes to all the wonderful employees that we have here. I love to see the students as they come as young, little girls and leave as young women, who really have a vision in life and have a purpose and are going to go on to change the world. And we have teachers that encourage that.”

Ultimately, the passion she has for Xavier and her ability to inspire others are what Sister Joan was credited for as Xavier’s leader. She has also received the Elizabeth Ann Seton Award for Leadership to Diocesan Schools, the Ministry Award from the Diocese of Phoenix, and the National Catholic Education Association’s Secondary Education Award.