Joan E. Ciruti was born in Ponchatoula, but grew up in Hammond. She received a Bachelor's degree at southeastern in 1950, a Master's degree at the University of Oklahoma in 1954, and finally her Ph.D. at Tulane University in 1959.
Ciruti taught at the University of Oklahoma from 1967 - 1963. She worked on the Language Development Program in the U.S. Office of Education from 1969 – 1960 while on leave from the University of Oklahoma.
She later Taught at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA from 1963 – 1992. While at Mount Holyoke she was chair of the Department of Spanish and Italian and the Latin American Studies Program for many years, and was Dean of Studies from1971 – 1974. She also served on numerous college committees. She the chair for the Day Gould Professor of Spanish from 1977 – 1992. Upon her retirement in 1992 she was named Professor Emerita and the then new Language Learning Center was renamed the Joan E. Ciruti Center for Foreign Languages.