Island University Celebrates Career of Dean Emerita Dr. JoAnn Canales, Announces New Scholarship

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A source of inspiration who continually encouraged her students, Dr. JoAnn Canales, Founding Dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Professor in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, impacted many students with her caring, thoughtful, and demanding teaching style over the course of her 20-year career at the Island University. 

In October, the university hosted a reception in honor of Canales being bestowed with the title Dean Emerita. It’s the second time the honor has been awarded to a Latina professor at the Island University since it was first awarded in 1994. 

The title of Emeritus is conferred on faculty with 10 or more years of service, who have made significant contributions to teaching, research, and service that go beyond the normal duties and responsibilities of an appointment.  

“For over two decades, Dr. Canales has made distinguished contributions to the discipline of curriculum and instruction,” said Dr. Kelly M. Miller, TAMU-CC president and CEO. “As a researcher, professor, educational administrator, associate dean, and dean, her work served to build a foundation that expands graduate studies across this campus and allows us to excel to this day.”

Canales told the audience that while she is grateful to see the direction of the initiatives she was privileged to be a part in shaping, she is most proud of the individuals she has been honored to have as students.

“It has been a special privilege and a source of great pride to see them not only excel personally and professionally, but to have taken the benefit of their knowledge, skills, and lived experiences, and each in their own unique way, are paying forward,” Canales said.

Canales first joined the Island University in 1998 as coordinator of teacher education and associate professor. In 2001, she was promoted to full professor, and in 2002, she was awarded an American Council on Education Leadership Fellowship. Upon receiving the 2005 TAMU-CC Excellence in Teaching Award, she used the award stipend to start the AC & Ende Canales Si Se Puede Endowed Scholarship in Education and Nursing in memory of her parents. 

In 2018, Canales was tapped to serve as dean in residence with the Council of Graduate Schools in Washington, D.C.

Exactly twenty years ago, in fall 2001, Canales taught a class that consisted primarily of single mothers.  

Canales’s students juggled caregiver responsibilities, school, tuition, and daycare payments as single mothers in their final student-teaching semester, an experience which gives students a glimpse into the day-to-day life of an educator. 

Dr. Whitney Kilgore ’01,’05 still remembers vividly the day when Canales asked them to close their eyes and put their heads down; she then played the inspirational song “I Hope You Dance” by country singer Lee Ann Womack.

“She believed in us when so many of us did not believe in ourselves,” Kilgore said. “She’s so talented at letting people know that she cares for them. Dean Canales is what I needed to make it through my student teaching semester as a single mom.” 

As an expression of gratitude for Canales, Kilgore and fellow classmates glued her initials on their graduation caps for being that support system for them. Over the years, Canales encouraged Kilgore to apply for graduate school, then a doctoral program.   

“What certainly helped was the fact that somebody cared for my success and wanted me to achieve greatness,” said Kilgore. “On that first day of class 20 years ago, I didn’t know that Dr. Canales would be with me for a lifetime, but I’m so grateful she has been. I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.” 

At the Emeritus reception for Canales, Kilgore announced that the Dr. JoAnn Canales Honorary Endowed Scholarship in Education had been established to provide funds specifically for single mothers in their student-teaching semester. The scholarship, funded by Kilgore, will allow recipients to know Canales’s teaching legacy, while also instilling opportunity and hope to its recipients.

Kaitlyn Winters, a senior nursing student and recipient of the Canales Si Se Puede scholarship, also attended at the Emeritus reception and was excited to be able to thank Canales in person. Winters, like Canales, hails from the border town of Laredo, Texas.

“This scholarship has helped me so much,” Winters said. “With the scholarship, I’ve been able to pay for college without the stress, so I’m very blessed. Dr. Canales helped me more than I could imagine, and I’m very thankful.”

If you would like to donate to the Dr. JoAnn Canales Honorary Endowed Scholarship in Education, or the A.C. and Ende Canales Si Se Puede Endowed Scholarship in Education and Nursing, please contact Director of Development, Kyle Anderson at 361-825-3547 or Gifts can also be made by visiting