Joel Siegel, the husband of former Kennesaw State University President Betty Siegel, died Tuesday afternoon following a stay in hospice. He was 89.
A college professor for most of his life, he taught English literature and linguistics at a number of institutions during his career, most recently in state at Dalton State College but also at Spelman College in Atlanta, the University of Florida, Virginia Tech and Western Carolina.
But many in the Cobb community may know him for how he took care of his wife of 53 years. Betty Siegel served as KSU’s president from 1981 until her retirement in 2006, making her the first woman to lead an institution in the University System of Georgia and the longest-serving female president of a public university in the entire nation.
Joel Siegel previously told the MDJ that he began to notice his wife’s growing forgetfulness around the time of her retirement, but when her dementia and forgetfulness became an overwhelming presence in their home in 2017, he sought serious medical help for her.
“He was a very devoted caregiver to our mother,” said David Siegel, one of Joel’s two sons. “For so many years here in the home, he just took expert care of her. He was her help mate, her partner. To see them during those years was really quite something. He played the role with just unstinting devotion.”
His other son, Michael, recalled his parents as believing they were each other’s equal, with both being lovers of music and everything academic.
“They would have these wonderful spirited conversations about faculty life and administrative life, and we would just sit in awe and listen to them,” Michael Siegel said.
Joel Siegel is survived by his wife, Betty; sons David and Michael Siegel; daughter, Liza Siegel; and six grandchildren.