Joan Van Ark (born June 16, 1943) is an American actress, most notable for her role as Valene Ewing, which she originated on the CBS hit series Dallas and continued for thirteen seasons on its long-running spin-off, Knots Landing. Van Ark has also received a Theatre World Award and been nominated for a Tony Award for her stage work.
Van Ark was born in New York City, the daughter of Dorothy Jean (née Hemenway), a writer, and Carroll Van Ark, who was born in Holland, Michigan, and worked in advertising and public relations. Her father named her after Joan of Arc because he was certain that she would become famous. Van Ark's paternal great-grandfather, Gradus, was an immigrant from the Netherlands. Both of Van Ark's parents and her sister, Carol, were writers. She grew up in Boulder, Colorado, and also has two brothers and a sister: Mark, Dexter and Carol.
At the age of 15, as a student reporter, Van Ark met and interviewed actress Julie Harris, who later recommended Van Ark apply to the Yale School of Drama. Harris had been the youngest student to attend the school on scholarship. Van Ark was also granted a scholarship, and was one of the few students to attend the graduate program without first having earned an undergraduate degree. She attended for only one year. Years later, Harris appeared on Knots Landing, playing the mother of Van Ark's character.