La Sierra’s first math grad credits alma mater for trailblazing career

Joan King, 1962 graduate of La Sierra University at alumni weekend fellowship banquet April 20.
Joan King, 1962 graduate of La Sierra University at alumni weekend fellowship banquet April 20.

April 25, 2012

By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( La Sierra University’s former students gathered at the Riverside campus alumni weekend April 20-22 to remember carefree college days and recall the significant impact their alma mater has had on their lives.

Many had interesting stories to tell, but perhaps among the most unique is Joan King’s experience as a member of the Class of 1962, this year’s 50th reunion class. She is the university’s first math graduate, an academic milestone for both King and the institution, then called La Sierra College. She credits La Sierra and her teacher Hilmer Besel, founder of the math department, with opening the door to a 30-year aerospace industry career, a relative phenomenon for a female in the 1960s.

“[Besel] was my math professor and also taught a course in computer programming back in the days when only one school in the country offered a degree in computer science, a master’s degree—I think it was Purdue,” King said. “That helped me get my first job as a programmer with Space Technology Laboratories.” There were no celebrations that she could recall commemorating her placement with the newly minted math degree. “But Hilmer Besel had to come up with some special studies for me so I could get all the units I needed for a math major, since it was so new,” King said.

By the time she graduated King was no stranger to ‘firsts’ as a woman. She started as a freshman at Andrews University, formerly Emmanuel Missionary College, before transferring to La Sierra for her junior and senior years. In between she studied for one year at Tufts University/Jackson College for Women in Massachusetts. “I was the first female to take auto mechanics at EMC as well as several engineering courses,” said King. “I was also the first in the family to get a driver’s license while I was in high school and to buy a house. In later years I became the first female head elder at the White Memorial Church.”

King currently serves as the corporate financial officer for Northstar physical and occupational therapy consulting services in Manhattan Beach where she lives in the same house she purchased in 1966 at age 25. She normally attends Sabbath services during La Sierra’s alumni weekend, but this year also attended Friday evening’s fellowship banquet and alumni awards. Said the trailblazing former math major, “last year I couldn’t make it because I was at Solusi University in Zimbabwe on a Maranatha project.”


PR Contact: Larry Becker

Executive Director of University Relations

La Sierra University

Riverside, California

951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  April 25, 2012