LOGAN, W.Va. -- Life was busy enough. As president of the Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College in Logan, Joanne Tomblin spends at least 10 hours a day dealing with the details and demands of academia.
She grew accustomed to the added obligations of public life as the wife of longtime Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin.
Now, as West Virginia's first lady, those official duties grow ever more daunting. No problem. Infused with boundless energy, she juggles myriad responsibilities with the can-do efficiency that has fueled her since those achievement-oriented high school years in Long Island.
Despite the high-profile titles and proficient do-it-all persona, she's gracious, open and easy to know.
Her journey to college president and first lady started on the life-altering day she enrolled at Marshall.
"I was born in New York City. I was an only child. When I was 5, we moved to Long Island where my dad went to work for American Electric Power as a consulting engineer. He traveled to different power plants in 13 states.
"My high school had 3,500 students. I was in a Jewish neighborhood. I was one of only five Christians. So I grew up in a very Jewish environment. Those parents were very academic-oriented.
"Syosset High School was in the top 100 schools in the United States. You were very much in academic competition. Of 900 students in my graduating class, 898 went to college and two went to the military. These were all very intelligent people.
"I was on the yearbook and newspaper staff, and I was a cheerleader, very athletic. But I was never one of those people out there being very showy. The title I got was Most Honest student.
"I always thought I would be an engineer or a lawyer. I started college as a science and math major at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. When I took an elective class in communications, I loved it, but the University of Hartford did not have a journalism school for communications.
"West Virginia was one of the places my dad went to when he traveled. He said Marshall University had one of the most outstanding journalism schools in the country. So I came to Marshall as a junior and majored in journalism.
"It was an adjustment, but it didn't take long. You make a place what it is. My roommate was from New York City, believe it or not. I met a lot of people from Logan. I would go to Logan with friends, never knowing I would end up here. This was 1973.
"In 1975, the faculty selected me as Marshall's Most Outstanding Broadcast Journalism Student. The chairman of the journalism department came to me and said the Legislature was going to have an Office of Public Information and would select six journalism students from the state to work there. I was working at WPBY, but the manager said if I were chosen, my job would be waiting for me.
"I got selected for the 1975 session. That is where I met Earl Ray. He wanted to do some news releases and radio spots and called us to help. It ended up being me. When the session was over, we started dating.
"Then I went to work at Channel 3 in Huntington. I started out doing a morning talk show, then moved to the noon news with Bob Brunner and Bud Dailey. And I would usually have a story for the 11 o'clock news. I had job offers in two other states but ended up staying.
"Earl Ray owned a restaurant in Logan. He would work in his restaurant and come to the session, so it was this wild romance for three or four years. We got married in 1979.
"I said I would marry him and come to Logan but I had to have a job. I ended up being director of the Chamber of Commerce. I worked part time for the chamber and part time here at the college as director of continuing education.
"The director of the Department of Aging wanted me to work for senior programs. I did that until 1983.
"The president of the college called and asked if I'd be interested in coming back. I went back in '83 as director of television services, right back in my field. Then I taught communication classes.
"I am a very motivated, high-energy person, always looking to do more and better. The assistant to the president position opened. Working with the president, I got my taste of operating and running an entire institution.
"As new presidents came on, I picked up a variety of jobs within my own job. I sat through many uncomfortable times here, but I was learning about the college and watching it grow. Assistant to the president turned into associate vice president and then vice president.