Founder’s Day speaker cites legacy

NEW ORLEANS(Nov. 15, 2012) – A Dillard nursing alumna who now leads the College of Nursing at Southern University in Baton Rouge urged listeners to “accept the charge” of DU’s founders and “save a seat” for the student who isn’t perfect – for someone like her.

“I wasn’t dismissed…I was loved and embraced,” said Dr. Cheryl Taylor. “They saved a seat for me; they saved a seat for you.”

Taylor was guest speaker Sunday in Lawless Chapel for the annual Founder’s Day convocation commemorating 143 years of the school’s existence and the 70th anniversary of the nursing program here – the first such program to be accredited in Louisiana in 1952.

She said the legacy Dillard must continue is the commitment and courage to educate children, care for the community, and preserve the rights and liberties of all.

“We have challenges today…but we have beautiful footprints to follow,” she said.

Taylor recalled how the Dillard University nursing department, now the School of Nursing in the College of Professional Studies, was created to develop leaders in a field dominated by white women. She reminded the audience of the time when African-Americans were ignored and underserved in the area of education.

“Out of slavery we worked hard to build educational institutions, and we created academic institutions for ourselves,” she said, applauding the “incredible vision” of the founders, newly freed from slavery, “when our people were ignored and perceived as not deserving of care.”

Taylor acknowledged her mentors, specifically Dr. Edwina Frank, whom she credited with helping to develop most of the state’s college nursing programs.

Rita Miller, a graduate of Columbia University and Mercy Hospital School of Nursing, was the first chair, and Taylor offered some of the “mother wit” adages Miller passed down, including: Free your mind and the rest will follow. Claim your heritage. Have pride in your appearance. Set a good example: Be on time, honest, kind, faithful and forgiving. Learn to listen; tone is everything. Give as much time to writing as you do to talking. Take everything you can, but don’t can everything you take.

Finally, she said, DU must protect the community: “Our health is our wealth,” she said.

President Walter Kimbrough vowed that with New Orleans making biomedical science a top priority, Dillard is setting its signs on developing a “premier nursing program.”