Joyce Slocum spent nearly six years working for National Public Radio in Washington, D.C., rising to become its interim chief executive officer. But she was born in Dallas and always wanted to come home to Texas, which was a mystery to many of her friends and colleagues on the East Coast. Isn’t it even hotter there than in Washington?, they would ask. “Well,” Joyce would reply with a drawl, “we don’t have to shovel any heat off of our driveways in Texas.”

That was just like Joyce: a formidable executive who was always quick with a quip and a grin. She died on Sunday in San Antonio, at age 66, after a long battle with colon cancer. She left behind, in Texas Public Radio, an institution she had transformed over the past decade, with a staff 60 percent larger than the one she inherited, a magnificent new headquarters on San Pedro Creek whose funding she had spearheaded, and a bookshelf groaning with national awards. She also left behind scores of devoted friends, like me.

Joyce and I served together on the board of the World Affairs Council of San Antonio, and we had lunch together once a month with a small group of corporate and civic leaders in the San Antonio Business Forum, a group that I had organized. She was always on time and well prepared. She had studied the agenda and the background documents. She asked insightful questions. And she made everyone laugh with her witty asides and Texan storytelling.

As soon as we met, she took note of my Alabama accent. We traded Southern sayings, and I joked with her that Dallas was just barely Southern at all. We had both lived in Washington, D.C., and agreed with President Kennedy’s remark that it was a city of “Northern charm and Southern efficiency.”

When Joyce returned to Texas in 2014, to become president and CEO of TPR, she brought everything she had learned during a decade as a corporate lawyer and executive at NPR. She also brought plenty of “sweet,” a term she often used to describe one of the traits that she loved about the Texas way of doing “bidniz.”

She made a point of learning personal details about those she saw regularly, often asking about their spouses, children, and even pets. She dressed Belle, her precious pup, in a silver tutu for special occasions, including the dinner parties she loved to host.

Joyce graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Saint Louis University School of Law. She spent the first decades of her career in private practice, including as an adviser to 7-Eleven and then as general counsel for HIT Entertainment, overseeing children’s entertainment programs, including Barney & Friends.

And speaking of friends: she had a special talent for introducing them to one another, and for inviting community organizations to collaborate with TPR. Such a collaboration developed when I chaired the San Antonio chapter of the Fulbright Association, which worked with TPR to sponsor educational programs.

TPR, during Joyce’s tenure, grew in fund-raising, head count, professionalism, community and statewide impact, and national acclaim. Joyce helped found the Texas Newsroom, a collaboration of public radio stations around the state that became a national model. TPR twice earned the coveted national Edward R. Murrow Award for overall excellence in large-market radio. When the organization moved from its longtime offices in north San Antonio to a new, public-facing downtown location, she assigned each employee one cardboard box and advised them, “That’s the limit.” She instructed them to pack whatever would fit in the box and let the movers do the rest.  

During her last months of cancer treatment, when she had lost most of her hair, Joyce sported a stunning blond hairpiece, said she felt fine, and always had a smile on her face. Among her last words were ones directed at the team she had built at TPR: “I’m so proud of you.” That was just like Joyce.

Pat LeMay Burr is a retired entrepreneur and distinguished chair, emerita at the University of the Incarnate Word, in San Antonio.