R e t u r n   t o   t a b l e   o f   c o n t e n t s

 

Commencement 2002

 

 

Olympic medalist Lea Ann Parsley (left photo) addressed this year’s nursing graduates, including Anu Gopalan, 02N (right top photo), and Debra Ilchak, 02MSN (right bottom photo). Both students received the Silver Bowl Award for dedication to nursing practice. Ilchak is pictured with Lynette Wright, Nurses Alumni Association president.



Faculty honored at commencement were Rose Cannon (above) with the Emory Williams Teaching Award and Darla Ura (below) with the Distinguished Professor in Teaching Award. Joyce Murray received the Teaching Scholar Award.


 

 

The Right Balance
Nursing keeps Olympic medalist on course

Lea Ann Parsley’s life is dramatically divided into thirds. A volunteer firefighter since age 16, she is considered a hero for saving the lives of a mother and her wheelchair-bound teen. Parsley also is an accomplished athlete who won a silver medal in the women’s skeleton event at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. And she is a nurse dedicated to serving others. Those qualities made her the perfect speaker for the School of Nursing’s 97th annual diploma ceremony in May.

As she greeted graduates and their families, Parsley confessed that she is more afraid to speak in public than to run inside a burning building or race down an icy course at 82 miles per hour, face down on a tiny sled. But in her heart she could not turn down speaking to her audience. “It feels good to be surrounded by nurses,” Parsley said.

With so much publicity surrounding Olympic athletics, being recognized as a nurse was a welcome change. Olympic competition, Parsley explained, requires athletes to focus on their “selfish side” to attain the level of fitness, ability, and concentration required to compete well in a sport. Fortunately for Parsley, nursing and firefighting allow her to step outside of herself and give something back to others. “Nursing offers balance to my life that other athletes don’t have,” she said.

Nevertheless, the profession has its own demands that require nurses to be teacher, counselor, accountant, and magician. “But at all times, you will still be a nurse,” she told graduates.

An RN for 10 years, Parsley is working on her doctorate in community health with a focus on the health issues of public service workers, including firefighters and police officers. Parsley had the honor of representing them during the Olympic opening ceremony as one of eight athletes who carried the US flag that flew at the World Trade Center on September 11. Before the opening ceremony, the athletes had to carefully unfold the flag back stage. As they began to unfurl it, the people milling around them pulled back to make room for the tattered cloth. “It was like the parting of the Red Sea back stage,” said Parsley, whose sister-in-law lost a family member during the terrorist attack in New York. “People were walking up and touching the flag. It was incredible to watch the power of the flag and the healing that took place.”

Once the Winter Games began, Parsley’s US skeleton team captured three out of six medals. It was the first time the skeleton event was offered for women and the sport’s first Olympic appearance since 1948.

In honor of her achievements and motivation, the School of Nursing presented Parsley with the Dean’s Award for Inspirational Leadership during the diploma ceremony. “She embodies the values of scholarship, leadership, and social responsibility as a nurse and as a citizen,” Dean Marla Salmon said. “In addition to her superb record as a world-class athlete, Lea Ann has shown all of us there are no boundaries to the important roles nurses can play in the health of the community and those they serve.”

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Commencement 2002
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