Joe Rolle: The NAU family shares its memories

Tributes to Joe Rolle have been steadily streaming in as students, alumni, friends, colleagues and other members of the Lumberjack family reflect on the life of the NAU legend, who died Feb. 13. Read some of these reflections below.

Share your memories and condolences on the NAU Alumni Association Facebook page.

Joseph Rolle

“Mr. Rolle’s commitment to excellence and support of student-athletes is something to be admired. This is a very sad time for Northern Arizona University and the athletic department, but Mr. Rolle’s contributions to the Flagstaff community will never be forgotten. He was a very instrumental person and will be sorely missed.”
Laurie Kelly, NAU women’s basketball coach
“I just heard tonight that Mr. Rolle passed away. I met him during the Gold Axe reception and he kissed my hand right after I received the President’s Prize. I thought that was so sweet and I will never forget that moment.”
Kaleigh Martino, ’10 NAU Alum
“Being a younger alum, I have very much appreciated the ‘second education’ about NAU that the Alumni Board has given me, and it is because the alums that came before us have taken the time to teach us what we missed out on. Meeting the Rolles was such an honor when I joined the board, and being able to visit with them and get to know them as more than a building that I watched sports in as a student means more than I can ever explain. Knowing what they did for students for so many years makes me proud to be associated with NAU and to have known them, even for a short time. I will be forever grateful for the time I got to spend with Joe and for what he has done for NAU and will continue to do through Marie and his legacy. I am headed up the hill Wednesday night for the basketball game and sitting in the Rolle Activity Center will be extra special. Joe is certainly looking down on us from Heaven, one that is filled with some NAU VIPs, and will continue to serve NAU through all of us. Heaven became a little more blue and gold yesterday.”
Joy Gaeraths, ’98, ’05 NAU Alumna, current Alumni board secretary/parliamentarian
“I know my heart is not alone in the feeling of sadness about Joe’s passing. He was a great man, friend, and Lumberjack. We have all been blessed by our opportunities to know and interact with him. I know that his love and dedication to our beloved university and its alumni will always be remembered and appreciated. He always has helped inspire my want to be a more active alum and live up to the example he set as a great ambassador for NAU. Rest in peace, Joe.”
Marc Atonna, ’95 NAU Alumnus, immediate past president of NAU Alumni board
“Not only was Joe the ‘face’ of NAU, he was the heart and the soul of our university. He was a living legend, an inspiration; not only to me, but to everyone he befriended. A person of Joe’s stature only comes along once in a lifetime and we were all very fortunate to have known him. He was a man of great strength and principles. His moral compass was honor, value, integrity and humility. His passing will be a great loss, not only to the university he so loved, or his beloved Flagstaff, which must have broken his heart to leave, but to everyone who knew him. He will be missed, but never forgotten.”
Ira Greenspan, ’71 NAU Alumnus, past NAU Alumni board member
“I wish there were a way for Dr. Rolle’s family to know how grateful I am for having known and benefitted from knowing him. What an honorable, modest, thoughtful man was Dr. Rolle. I was a student at NAU, then ASC, from 1956 through graduation in 1960, and I had very many opportunities to interact with Dr. Rolle. I am a much better professional, and a much better person, for having had such experience. I am one of what I am sure are the thousands upon thousands of people who knew and benefitted from the work and the kindnesses of Dr. Rolle, and, indeed, Mrs. Rolle as well. I wish I would have taken the time to tell them both how grateful I have always been for their friendship and help when I was there. I thought a thousand times I would write to Dr. Rolle and never did. But each time I did think of him it was with gratitude and ever more respect.”
Philip Encinio, ’60 NAU Alumnus
“I remember with fondness Dr. Joseph C. Rolle yelling during my basketball game—for me to make a free throw. He was class all the way. As a fellow Catholic, I will remember him when I attend Mass this weekend for the repose of his soul. He was a great man and will be missed.”
Eddie Graveline, ’78 NAU Alumnus
“As an alum who graduated from NAU in 1970, I knew both Joe and Marie Rolle. I was active in student government for four years while I pursued my B.S. in Education there. My first teaching job was at Bisbee High School, Dean Rolle’s alma mater. I was hired sight-unseen, and, although I don’t know this for a fact, I always suspected that the Rolles played a part in my securing that position. My condolences to the family. (It really is great to be a Lumberjack!)”
Susan Fox Jacobs, ’70 NAU Alumna
“Dr. Rolle was always an inspiration to me and I would not have made it through NAU without his constant interest, dedication and leadership that was respected by those of us who had the pleasure of knowing him. He will be missed by all.”
Ed Miner, ’64 NAU Alumnus
“I am saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Rolle.  He was an exceptional man who was fully committed to education which is well known…Peaceful slumber, Joe and thank you for your lifetime devoted to educational endeavors and accomplishments!”
Genia Stephenson, ’74 NAU Alumna

“Dr. Rolle was a fantastic example of dedication to family, friends and Northern Arizona University. Rest well.”
—Bruce Turner, ’79 NAU Alumni, Alumni Board member

“I graduated from Willcox High School in 1961. My first day at Arizona State College (now NAU), I went over to see Dean Joe Rolle about getting a job. Although I was on an academic scholarship, I needed the additional money to get by. He found me a job that lasted for four years as I became active in campus activities and ultimately served as social director of the ASC Student Council and was named Outstanding Senior of the class of 1965. I credit Joe and Marie as ‘guiding lights’ during my ASC years. I went on to teach and coach at Santa Cruz High in Eloy and then spent 31 years with IBM. I am now retired and live in Ashevillle, NC, but will never forget the influence of Joe Rolle not only on my college life, but my life as an IBM executive, an active member of my community and as a husband, father and grandfather. He was one great guy.”
—Phil Atwood, ’65 NAU Alum
“In the ’70s, Dean Rolle was the university sponsor of the Inter-Fraternity Council. One evening the phone rang in my dorm room and expecting a call from a fraternity brother I was somewhat ‘cavalier’ how I answered the phone. There was a pause, then a familiar voice said, ever-so-graciously, ‘Ah, Bill, this is Dean Rolle. Apparently, you were expecting someone else.’ After all these years, that’s one of my favorite moments with Dean Rolle.”
—Bill Farrell, ’73 NAU Alum
“I met Dr. Rolle only once, but it was something I have never forgotten. It was an Alumni get-together in Tucson just before a football game. He walked up and introduced himself. I will never forget the time he spent just wanting to know who I was.”
—Brian Hayes, ’97, ’04 NAU Alum
“My first contact with Joe was when I got a request in class to meet with him and Louie MacDonald. Friends were wondering how I had managed to screw up so soon after starting my freshman year. They just wanted to say hello and tell me they both knew my mom…still it was scary.”
—Rich Boyd, ’73 NAU Alum
“I met Dean Rolle when I received my Gold Axe Award. I was honored to be in the presence of such an influential man. He was nice even in the two minutes I talked to him. I know he will be greatly missed.”
—Cecile Banks, ’10 NAU Alum
“My deepest condolences. My mother, Sylvia Grant Powell, was also born in Bisbee and was a lifelong friend of Joe’s. I knew Joe from his service to NAU during my years there. He was a great role model. His passing leaves a void that will be hard to fill.”
—Lawrence Anthony DiLucchio, ’72, ’73 NAU Alum
“Dean Rolle was instrumental in my attending ASC. He made a presentation to my senior class at Morenci High School in the fall of 1959. I was impressed with him from the beginning. I think he was partial to kids from the mining camps. He never disappointed me during the subsequent years that I attended ASC. At the time ASC barely had an enrollment of 2,000. Student interface with administration and faculty outside the classroom was a daily occurrence. I am most fortunate and honored to have had his exemplary presence in my undergraduate life. I offer my condolences to his beautiful family. He will be missed.”
William Lafferty, ’66 NAU Alum
“For all of us who were students and NAU Alumni Lumberjacks, we will always remember the special moments and times we spent with Dean Rolle and how he affected our lives.”
—Bill Hanna, ’69 NAU Alum
“He was a gentleman and an ASC/NAU treasure. He will be missed by all who knew him.”
—Roberta McMills Rohwer, ’67 NAU Alum
“A very sad day for NAU and Flagstaff. Charlene and I have always admired the Rolles for all they did for their community. They have always been extremely kind and open to us and we will miss him. Our prayers to Marie and God Bless Joe.”
—Samuel E Elliott, ’91, ’01 NAU Alum
“Sad day for NAU. Our condolences to the Rolle family.”
—Alex Gutierrez, ’85, ’90 NAU Alum
“Joe touched all of us and his spirit will always be a part of NAU. My prayers go out to Marie and the rest of his family.”
—LaTrice Brewster, ’92 NAU Alum
“Fond memories of Dean Rolle and his sidekick, Dr. McDonald, while I ‘work-studied’ in the Financial Aid Office in the early 70s. They were always smiling, upbeat, and champions of NAU. A great loss for our community.”
—Mary Freeman Zimmerman, ’72 NAU Alum
“If you ever met Dean Rolle, you couldn’t not like NAU.”
—Joseph Lippert, ’75, ’83 NAU Alum
“I am so saddened to hear this. I first had the pleasure of meeting Joe as a newly inducted NAUAA Board member three years ago. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting his dear wife Marie, his family, and getting to know more of the Rolle legacy. He was always very kind, a wealth of knowledge, and a true inspiration. He will missed dearly.”
—Veronica Perez, ’94 NAU Alum, Alumni Association board member
“God Bless Joe Rolle, one of the most influential individuals at Northern Arizona University. I am blessed to have had the chance to know him through the NAU Alumni Association. Joe, your Lumberjack pride and spirit, your kind heart and warm smile will never be forgotten! My thoughts and prayers are with the Rolle Family (and his NAU family too).”
—Meg Kondrich, ’03 NAU Alumn, Alumni Association board member