Joan Secchia was born Joan Margaret Peterson in Saginaw, Michigan. She grew up and went to school in Midland, Michigan, where her father worked for The Dow Chemical Company.

Mrs. Secchia attended Michigan State University, where she was a member of Chi Omega sorority, and graduated with a degree in elementary education. After graduation, she married Peter Secchia, who is also a graduate of MSU.

The following Fall, Mrs. Secchia taught 4th grade at an elementary school in Rockford, Michigan. She also taught fifth grade in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, a city that boasts one of the finest public school systems in the state.

Before going to Rome in 1989, when her husband served as US Ambassador to Italy until 1993, Mrs. Secchia was active in a variety of civic and community organizations. She was a member of the Junior League, a hospital guild, served as a board officer and on the executive committee of the Kent County Red Cross, and was president of the East Grand Rapids High School Parent, Teacher, Student Association. In addition, Mrs. Secchia has been involved in numerous political campaigns, serving as Kent County co-chair for former Governor Milliken and was twice elected as a precinct delegate.

While in Rome, Mrs. Secchia continued a wide range of activities. She was a member of the Fulbright Commission, a board member of the USO, was instrumental in the formation of a Rome chapter of the Navy League, and is active in promoting Girls' Town and Boys' Town of Italy. In addition, Mrs. Secchia planned and directed an extensive restoration project at the Villa Taverna, the residence of US Ambassadors to Italy. With the help of the Villa Taverna Society, a group of private donors in the United States, Mrs. Secchia supervised a complete refurbishing of the guest suites and public rooms of the historic residence.

Since her return, Mrs. Secchia has become a Board Member of Opera Grand Rapids, the Children's Assessment Center, the Student Advancement Foundation, the Women's Resource Center, and has become a Trustee of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids.

Among her hobbies, Mrs. Secchia enjoys bridge and is an enthusiastic tennis player.

The Secchias are residents of East Grand Rapids, Michigan. They have four children; two daughters and two sons.