Rally for Honor
June 24, 2012
Remarks by Dorrie Fontaine, RN, PhD
Dean, School of Nursing and Sadie Heath Cabaniss Professor of Nursing
What Nurses Know:
Why we want our President Terry Sullivan Back
To my fellow students, faculty and administrator colleagues, and friends in the community:
Nurses are no strangers to pain, sadness, loss and grief. We see it every day in the patients and families we care for and we train for resilient responses to these emotions. As dean of the School of Nursing I have watched over the past 2 weeks the way we have come together to share this loss and grief. Reports of sleepless nights, crying, feeling shame, and now anger have all been reported. Despite our sadness, my colleagues have sprung into action to let the Board of Visitors and the community know that this unjust action of the Board must not stand. We are united in asking for our President to return.
My favorite Martin Luther King quote is: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent on things that matter.” This matters. We were not silent.
President Terry Sullivan understood a relationship-based model of leadership that was inspiring to my School and to all my fellow deans. She was everywhere---every sporting event, every church in the community, and attended as many events at each school as possible. In my own School, President Sullivan would come early to events and not leave until she had spoken to each student and faculty. She has style and grace and much courage. Can a relationship-based leadership style also lead to measurable, accountable fiscal solutions and outstanding outcomes? I am confident the answer is a resounding yes.
It is ironic that President Sullivan’s “Three Laws of Administration” provided to the deans and vice presidents when she started in 2010 are instructive to us now: First, Never surprise an administrator, Second, find the resources and get control of them and these include human capital---watch and care for good faculty and staff, and finally, don’t leave anyone out who ought to be consulted. I don’t think the Board of Visitors got the memo! President Sullivan lived her values with all the deans here with respect and honor, integrity and trust.
Our Provost John Simon, another hero in this 2 week saga, stated to the search committee exactly June of 2011, that UVA should not try to be MIT or Stanford or Duke but “UVA needs to be the very best UVA it can be.” My fellow deans and faculty believe we are on a path not to mimic others, but to achieve levels of excellence that others will and already do envy.
In addition to grief and sadness, nurses know healing as well. Yes, healing: after Tuesday at 3 pm we shall come together to hopefully celebrate our President’s return. I have been waking up with the image of President Sullivan riding the Cavalier’s horse, Sabre, up to Carr’s Hill with the UVA flag in a “Joan-of-Arc type” moment. But nurses do know healing and as we encourage the Board of Visitors to act with courage and wisdom, we shall all find the fresh courage needed here to support each other and be the best we can be. We shall also need to move to forgiveness as well as dedicated action for shared governance. I am proud of all the faculty senators for their courage and resilience. They are role models for our students. I am confident we will emerge a stronger, bolder community and I am so very proud to be a part of it today. The narrative of today will be told as one of courage, wisdom, and justice.