Former Head of Teachers’ Retirement Board

MAY 28, 2020: It is with heavy hearts that we report the passing of Joan Schloss DeLena, who died on May 22nd from a lung disorder related to her prolonged fight with cancer. Joan had served as a member of the Mass Retirees Executive Board since September of 2015.

Throughout her more than 30 years of public service, Joan was a leading figure within the public pension community in Massachusetts, as well as nationally. Having served as general counsel to both the City of Boston and Teachers’ retirement boards, few possessed more knowledge of the Chapter 32 retirement law.

Joan became the Executive Director of the Mass. Teachers Retirement System in 2002, following the departure of longtime director Tom Lussier. Lussier now serves as an advisor to Mass Retirees on federal issues, including Social Security WEP and GPO reform.

“I remember the day that I first met Joan. I was immediately impressed and knew that she was someone I needed on our team at the Teachers’ Board. So, I recruited her for the job of legal counsel, and it proved to be one of the best hires I ever made,” recalls Lussier. “My heart is filled with so many wonderful memories of Joan.”

Retired teacher Anne Wass had the pleasure of working closely with Joan in multiple capacities over the years. Wass served as President of the Mass. Teachers Association during the implementation of Retirement Plus, then as the governor’s appointee to the MTRB, and, most recently, as a fellow Mass Retirees Board Member.

“When I was first appointed to the Teachers’ Board Joan went out of her way, both professionally and personally, to make me feel comfortable. She understood that her job was not to just lead the Teachers’ Retirement System, but, more importantly, to care for the tens of thousands of active and retired teachers who are members of the system,” said Wass. “Joan led the MTRB in the early days of RetirementPlus, ensuring that it was properly implemented. While she was not a teacher herself, she was a true advocate for the teaching profession. Her heart and soul were dedicated to improving the lives of teachers.”

“I worked very closely with Joan over the course of my career in state government. Not only was she one of a handful of true experts when it came to public retirement law, but she was also a great leader,” says Association President Frank Valeri. “When Joan retired in 2014, I immediately went to work recruiting her to become involved in our Association and join our board. She was a true asset. Unfortunately, her fight with cancer prevented her from being as hands-on as I know she would have liked to be.

“Joan will certainly be missed. Our condolences go out to her husband Bob and her extended family and friends.”

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