Alcorn nursing dean to retire at end of June

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 11, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; A stellar career in nursing education will take a turn on June 30, when Dr. Frances C. Henderson, dean of the Alcorn State University School of Nursing, retires.

The new direction will lead Henderson along different daily paths than the familiar hallways of the thriving, state-of-the-art nursing school on the southern outskirts of Natchez. However, she hopes to remain associated with the unique school and clinic that have grown under her direction during the more than 17 years since she became associated with Alcorn.

&uot;I will be available to Alcorn as a consultant on a contractual basis,&uot; Henderson said, as she outlined some of her goals for the next few years.

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Her association with Alcorn has been secured not only through the rich experience she has had with the university and her successes there. Now yet another honor and another link will tie her to the school.

John Diekelmann and Dr. Nancy Diekelmann of Madison, Wis., have initiated the Dr. Frances C. Henderson Endowed Visiting Professorship in Nursing, providing the first $1,000 contribution and establishing in their wills additional provisions for funding.

&uot;I’m told the fund already is above the minimum $5,000 required to established the fund,&uot; Henderson said. &uot; This is a tremendous honor and surprise for me.&uot;

Nancy Diekelmann has been a colleague with Henderson in research projects since 1989. &uot;They are people always interested in doing something for the public good,&uot; Henderson said.

Nancy Diekelmann is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing and an internationally known nursing educator, researcher and author.

John Diekelmann is an architect and landscape architect, with credits to his career such as the architectural plans for the Adler Planetarium Extension in Chicago and the landscape master plans for the Wisconsin Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

Anyone may make tax-deductible contributions to the professorship fund. University officials expect the occasion of Henderson’s retirement to prompt many contributions in her honor. Contributions may be sent to Syble Jones, Alcorn State University School of Nursing, P.O. Box 18399, Natchez, MS 39122.

Henderson said her two years as head of the baccalaureate nursing program at Alcorn and the remaining 15 years as dean of the school were important ones in her life. &uot;It was a rich and rewarding experience. I’ve enjoyed the teaching as well as the leadership role in the school of nursing,&uot; she said.

She looks back on her arrival in early 1986 and the excellent facility that awaited her. Her challenges were to develop the faculty and staff and &uot;all the human resources needed for the growth and kinds of performances we’ve been able to achieve.&uot;

Under her guidance, the nurse master’s degree program was initiated. And the baccalaureate program has grown.

Challenges of providing health in a rural area such as Southwest Mississippi also captured her enthusiasm. Securing a grant from the Kellogg Foundation, she led the way to providing a mobile health unit to travel into areas where health care was scarce or nonexistent.

Also with Kellogg, she developed the rural health clinic on the nursing school campus. &uot;I’m not sure people in the area realize what we do and how many people we help at the clinic,&uot; Henderson said. &uot;The clinic provides primary care to a variety of people in Natchez.&uot;

Henderson also hopes she can continue to follow and be a part of telemedicine efforts tested in rural areas in a six-month feasibility study recently.

The project was a joint effort between the University of South Alabama and Alcorn, calling for the ASU nursing school to use and evaluate a suitcase-size portable monitoring device by taking it to patients in rural Southwest Mississippi and transmitting medical information by way of an ordinary telephone to clinicians at the Natchez campus.

&uot;There is a lot of potential in the telemedicine program, and we hope to develop that further,&uot; she said.

&uot;Whatever I do, though, I’m not going to do on a Monday. I’m going to take Mondays and Fridays off for Frances, making time to sleep, to get my own life organized and to become refreshed and rejuvenated.&uot;

She will continue to write and to conduct her research on diabetes, an area she has studied for many years. &uot;And writing also is my primary hobby. It’s the way I solve problems. I find it very relaxing,&uot; she said.

Natchez has won her heart, and she will continue to call it home. &uot;Natchez is the real world; there’s a little bit of everything in it. The people are particularly warm and receptive. The needs were great, and people have appreciated what we do.&uot;

A reception to honor Henderson will begin at 5 p.m. today at the Natchez Convention Center. Invitations were sent, but Henderson said any friends and colleagues who did not receive invitations are invited to come but should call (601) 304-4318 to say they are coming.