James Schaub, Curator of Exhibitions, nominated Jo Falls for the Roger Lidman Distinguished Service Award at the Museum Association of Arizona’s Annual Conference on March 18, 2019. The esteemed award designates an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to an individual museum, the museum profession, the local community, to Arizona, to the Museum Association of Arizona, and to other professional organizations, recognizing a recent milestone or a lengthy career. In addition to this well-deserved award, let’s get to know more about Jo.
Jo Falls is currently the Director of Education and Visitor Services, but has been with Tohono Chul since the beginning in 1986. Originally the Office Manager, Jo was a staff member and since that time, she has worn many hats; working in the Exhibits Department (currently overseeing), Volunteer Services (currently overseeing), and since 1991 she has served as the Director of Education and Visitor Services while simultaneously directing Educational Travel and Public Programs.
Over the years, Jo’s contributions to Tohono Chul have set the table for what happens today and has set the bar for what will happen in the future. Jo is tireless – she has taught and written the curriculum for the Docent Program, a rigorous 18-week course on the Sonoran Desert that turns people with prior lives in finance, politics, education, advertising, engineering, etc. into “Desert Rats.” Jo has worked with, conceived, and tailored programs to grades K-12 and a variety of community outreach projects. She researches and contributes interpretive and didactic text for all Tohono Chul signage and publications; and has helped other institutions all over the region as a guest speaker and grant reviewer. Jo goes out of her way to make herself available to each and every docent and volunteer, and that’s a lot of time considering there are currently almost 400 active Tohono Chul volunteers and docents.
In this day and age of people jumping from job to job – Jo Falls is a rare breed. She has worked as an Education Department of “one” overseeing the Exhibits Department of “two” since 1991 – in that time there have been only three curatorial teams – a testament to her abilities as a nurturing, productive, and dedicated administrator. She respects and believes in the people she works with; values deeply their knowledge, interests, and expertise. Jo is adaptabale and flexible, encouraging and allowing magic to happen – giving the people she works with energy and guidance as well as the freedom and space they need to grow their ideas into projects and programs that benefit Tohono Chul and the communities it serves. Like everything she touches – Jo Falls is exceptional, educational, and inspirational.
Tohono Chul, as an institution, has been moving forward for 34 years – Jo Falls, as part of that institution and as an institution herself, has been continually shaping it, moving it forward in her unique way over her 33 years of service, into the welcoming and wonderful place it is. Simply put – Tohono Chul in Tucson would not be what it is without Jo Falls!