When young Diane Zosky ’80 enrolled at Illinois State University as an undergraduate in the late 1970s, she didn’t dream that she would conclude her career at the University as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. As she prepares to retire in July, the college thanks Dean Zosky for her extraordinary work in successfully guiding it through one of the most challenging periods in history.
After graduating from Illinois State with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) in 1980, Zosky was employed by Catholic Social Services as a caseworker. She earned a Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1983 and became a social worker at Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, where her responsibilities included serving people with traumatic neurological issues. During this time, Zosky also worked as a therapist in counseling and family services.
Zosky joined the faculty in the Department of Sociology and Social Work at Bradley University in 1997. She earned a Ph.D. from the School of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago in 2000, and in 2001 she returned to her alma mater as an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Illinois State.
Dr. Gary A. Olson, who served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 2004 to 2009, appointed Zosky to serve as interim chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology for the 2007-2008 academic year. Impressed by her talent for administration, he also requested that she serve as interim chair of the Department of History for the 2008-2009 academic year.
“The College of Arts and Sciences was fortunate to have Diane Zosky’s leadership over the years. She is smart, judicious, fair-minded, and kind, and she brings a sense of gravitas and professionalism to every leadership position she takes on,” Olson said. “I wish her well as she transitions to a well-deserved retirement and the next phase of her life.”
From 2010 to 2012, Zosky served as interim director of the School of Social Work, and in 2012 Dr. Gregory B. Simpson, who served the college as dean from 2011 to 2018, appointed her director.
“It was a pleasure to work with Diane during my tenure as dean,” Simpson said. “She was very effective and highly respected as director of the School of Social Work. She was also an outstanding citizen of the college, involved in a number of interdisciplinary activities across the University. She has been an excellent model for leadership at ISU.”
The author of numerous articles and technical reports, Zosky has also been a featured speaker at conferences, conventions, and training workshops across the state and country. She was the recipient of the Social Worker of the Year Award from the Peoria District of the National Association of Social Workers in 2003 and was awarded the Partners in Peace Award from the Center for the Prevention of Abuse-Peoria in 2006.
In 2018, then-provost Dr. Jan Murphy appointed Zosky to a two-year term as interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Early in 2020, a pandemic swept around the globe, changing the structure of everyone’s lives. It became impossible to safely conduct routine business and created enormous challenges for schools, businesses, and universities. During this time of uncertainty and fear, Zosky remained a calm, brave presence in the college. Although her life would have been far easier and more comfortable if she had simply retired in 2020, she put the needs of the college and the University ahead of her own and agreed to continue as dean until a new administrator could be hired in 2022.
“I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to work with Diane and to learn from her,” Murphy said. “She has been an outstanding administrator who is leaving a legacy of excellence at the University. Best of luck, Diane!”
Zosky’s multi-faceted career at Illinois State included the creation of a student advisory board and an increased emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the college.
“Dean Zosky has been a superb faculty member and administrator at Illinois State University,” said Dr. Aondover Tarhule, vice president and provost of Illinois State. “An incredible ambassador for the College of Arts and Sciences, she always advocated for her faculty, staff, and students. I have personally appreciated how she presented practical solutions to the challenges we face in higher education in a calm and thoughtful way. I will miss working with her and wish her a long and healthy retirement. She deserves it!”
The College will host a retirement reception for Dean Zosky in July. All members of the University community are welcome to attend, and additional details will be forthcoming.