Trustee shares life lessons

Nursing is about the people, School of Nursing Dean Jean Johnson told the graduates sitting before her Saturday morning.

It is about the people you care for and whose bedsides you sit by, she said. And graduation day, she pointed out, is also about the people who supported you through your scholastic careers and made it possible for you to earn your diploma. Stand and applaud your friends and family members, Johnson told the graduates, asking them to also recognize professors that served as guides along the way.

And while nursing is, first and foremost, about people, Johnson said, it is also a rapidly growing field that carries increasing weight in science and technology. The School of Nursing graduates, she said, are ready to tackle all aspects of the profession.

“Nursing is about taking care of people. But it’s also about the science and technology of patient care,” Johnson said. “You will be the leaders to make critical decisions. Not just at the bedside and in the clinics, but at policy tables.”

Keynote speaker Ellen Zane, a Board of Trustees member, picked out three important lessons for graduates to remember as they enter the world of policy and patient support: Take risks, have “a fire in your belly” and “never compromise the high road.”

Zane started her college career living in Thurston Hall in 1969 – a tumultuous time, she said – when the streets of Georgetown were often shut down due to tear gas. It was an exciting era to attend the University, Zane said, adding that the lessons she learned at GW carried her through her health care career. It was a career that saw Zane serve as president and chief executive officer of Tufts Medical Center, Inc. from January 2004 to September 2011 and as the president of Partners Community Healthcare, Inc. before that. During her entire career, Zane said, she carried three lessons that she imparted to the graduates before her.

Graduates should not be afraid to take risks, she said. School of Nursing graduates are “at the epicenter of what’s happening in healthcare,” Zane said, and “have to be passionate” to rise through their chosen career. Most important to remember, she added, was a lesson her father taught her as she considered a major career move when she was starting out in the field.

“ ‘If you don’t take risks,’ he said, ‘real risks, you can be good. You can be very, very good, but you’ll never be great,’ ” Zane said.

Also important, she said, is to never lose the “fire in your belly” that powers personal motivation. Do not be afraid to “swallow hard and take a leap.” Be smart enough to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are, Zane added, because those who can seek help and support are the most successful.

She called, most importantly, for graduates to strive to always act with great integrity.

“Never, ever underestimate the importance of what you do. Never, ever do it unless you feel passion for what you’re doing. And most importantly, never, ever compromise the high road,” Zane said. “And finally, just go out there and kill them with competence.”

Senior Associate Dean Ellen Dawson wrapped up the ceremony by delivering a charge to the graduates, challenging them to begin a “lifetime of knowledge.”

“When you came into this school, you were good and you have become better,” she said. “The faculty would like you to go out and be the best.”

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