Joy Smith Peterson believes that it was her personal good fortune to be born in a family with a heritage that was rich in the love and passion for music and dance. Her first public performance took place when she was at the young age of three years old; she sang a solo on a KSL Radio Children’s program.
Peterson reflects on her grandmother, father and mother all being well-known for their proclivity for ballroom dancing and skill with the piano. Her father won numerous trophies in ballroom dancing competitions in the Salt Lake City and Davis County areas. He was also an accomplished basketball player for the University of Utah Prep School, a fine baseball pitcher and a great fast-pitch softball pitcher.
Peterson’s father taught her softball pitching and batting skills at a very young age. She reflects on being gifted with a softball bat and ball for her eighth birthday. As an only child, Peterson often accompanied her father to high school and University of Utah basketball and football games. Due to having no women’s athletic teams available at the time, Peterson’s athletic skills were restricted to school gym classes and intramural basketball games.
Peterson attended the University of Utah where she met her husband, Bill Peterson, whom she deemed as a “good looking basketball player.” The duo wed in 1947 and Peterson’s studies then turned to correspondence courses at night while her husband finished his degree. She took the time to increase her knowledge and skills by attending classes at all three major Utah universities, eventually completing classes in physical education. She also attended coaching clinics and athletic skill classes in gymnastics, volleyball, softball and racket sports.
Upon moving to Price, Peterson’s time went largely toward her private dance school and civic involvement. In 1961, she was contacted by Carbon College to be a part-time dance and physical education instructor as well as a Blue Debs advisor and choreographer.
In 1965, Peterson was hired as a full-time professor. This led her to turn over the responsibilities of her dance school to her daughter Shawnda. As the college enrollment increased, she felt that it was her duty to add more curriculum to the dance and physical education departments. In 1969, Peterson recognized the need for a women’s athletic program at CEU. At the time, there was no budget for additional faculty to coach, which drew her to add coaching to her class load. She then organized a chapter of Women’s Recreation Association (WRA) for female CEU students that were interested in athletics.
Eight years of tireless work later, a women’s coach was hired. Until that time, Peterson wore many hats, acting as the gymnastic, softball and volleyball coach as well as a full-time physical education teacher. She also served as an officer in women’s athletics organizations until her retirement in 1987.
In 1976, she became actively involved in serving on committees to obtain funds to build a new physical education building. This meant planning, designing a studio, meetings with state boards and more. In the fall of 1985, the Bunnell-Dmitrich Athletic Center was born.
“I loved teaching on a college level, I believe there is no greater accomplishment than being able to teach a person new skills, encouraging them to make good use of their talents and making them aware of the excitement to be found in dance, sports and physical fitness,” stated Peterson.