Remembering Joan DaVanzo, AWHC Board Member

By Suzanne Roy, Executive Director

On Saturday, May 18, 2024, I represented American Wild Horse Conservation (AWHC) at a Celebration of Life for Dr. Joan DaVanzo, an esteemed member of our Board of Directors, who passed away earlier this year after a valiant battle with cancer.

For two hours, more than 100 of Joan’s friends, family, and colleagues gathered to honor her memory and celebrate her many accomplishments. Joan began her career in finance, becoming only the sixth woman member of the New York Stock Exchange. She later secured her Ph.D. in Public Health and became a leader in the healthcare policy field, serving as CEO of Dobson DaVanzo, a consulting firm she co-founded with her husband, economist Al Dobson.

Joan’s passion for life and her infectious warmth and positivity were evident as her friends recounted her worldwide travels, her passion for photographing wildlife, her deep love for animals, especially her horses and dogs, and her remarkable ability to connect with others. Her kindness extended to everyone, from strangers she met by chance to her employees to an octopus she encountered while snorkeling, who emerged from his ocean shelter to lock eyes with Joan in a moment of mutual understanding and compassion.

Even during her most challenging days, Joan’s positive spirit shone through. After illness struck, she courageously regained the ability to walk, swallow, and talk until an infection presented a final challenge she could not overcome.

As an early board member of AWHC, Joan played a crucial role in our growth and the success of some of our most important initiatives. She generously shared her expertise as the CEO of a growing business, guiding AWHC’s evolution from a campaign to a leading conservation organization. Her economic acumen was instrumental in several key projects, including our report on the Adoption Incentive Program, which resulted in a front-page New York Times story exposing it as a pipeline to slaughter for truckloads of mustangs. Joan also contributed significantly to the development of the economic analysis that helped secure dedicated funding from Congress for fertility control. Above all, she was a bright light and a positive influence, always ready to lend a hand in our efforts to secure a better future for our wild horses and burros.

At her memorial, her husband Al expressed his intent to spread her ashes in places that held special meaning to her, including in the West amongst wild mustangs. We will be honored to facilitate this wish as we join with her friends, colleagues, and family in mourning her loss. To honor her memory, AWHC has created a Joan DaVanzo Memorial Fund. Joan’s legacy of compassion, dedication, and positivity lives on through our work.