Tisch was born to Howard N. Hyman and his wife, Marie Ziegler. Her Father was a Manhattan dentist who helped disabled war veterans attend theater and sporting events. He persuaded Jack Mara, then President of the New York Giants, to donate 400 seats for each home game to disabled fans and their companions, according to a news release from Loews upon his death in 1981. Her mother was born in Germany. In 1948, she received a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Michigan and married Preston Robert "Bob" Tisch (1926–2005) the same year. They had three children:
Joan Tisch died on the morning of November 2, 2017, at the age of 90 after a brief illness.