School mourns loss of pivotal leader

Jean Kelley shaped School’s the graduate program, laid foundation of excellence still enjoyed today

By Jennifer Lollar
Professor Emerita Jean A. Kelley, EdD, RN, retired Associate Dean for Graduate Programs who built and shaped the graduate and doctoral programs at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing and laid the foundation of excellence that has helped propel the School into the top 10 in the nation, died Sunday, April 8, 2018. She was 87.

Jean Kelley pic collage 300x296“Dr. Jean Kelley’s leadership, knowledge and personal example has inspired generations of students, alumni, practicing nurses, faculty and colleagues nationwide,” said UAB School of Nursing Dean and Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair in Nursing Doreen C. Harper, PhD, RN, FAAN. “Her contributions as an educator, mentor, and compassionate colleague have enriched countless lives, and her teaching methods continue to be significant today. She spent nearly 60 years providing pivotal leadership to our School, and I consider us all very fortunate to have been the beneficiaries of Jean’s untiring leadership in nursing, and support for our School. She believed in the power of nursing and will be missed.”

Kelley began her affiliation with the UAB School of Nursing when she entered the baccalaureate program on the Tuscaloosa campus in 1954. After earning her BSN, she spent three years in New York while she and husband Clarence both earned advanced degrees from New York University. Kelley came back to UAB in 1959, becoming a faculty member in the School. She taught in both the undergraduate and graduate programs, and began a tradition of outstanding teaching and dedicated attention to the success of her students.

By 1964, as the mother of three small children, she decided to take a break from teaching. It didn’t last. She agreed to head a Birmingham-based program involving three nursing schools and Children’s Hospital — a program in need of special skills and leadership. Once that program was on solid ground, Kelley agreed to return to the UAB School of Nursing, which moved from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham in 1967.

Kelley served the School as Chair of the Department of Administration — Supervision of Nursing Practice and spent her last 19 years as Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, where her strong leadership directed the growth of nursing at a local, state, regional and national level. She expanded the vision of nursing at UAB and was instrumental in expanding the Master’s program, carrying it to outlying communities.

“She literally drove a RV throughout Alabama delivering graduate nursing education where nurses worked and lived, reaching those who would have not been able to access graduate education otherwise,” Harper said.

She also developed the first professional doctoral program in nursing in the Southeast at UAB, educating nurses to aspire to the highest levels of achievement and serving as mentor for numerous students that have gone on to serve in national and international leadership positions. She also had direct involvement in founding masters in nursing programs at the University of South Alabama, University of Alabama at Huntsville and Troy University. The outcomes of her commitment and vision are reflected in the hundreds of nurses who are faculty members, deans of nursing schools and nurse scientists, not only in Alabama, but also throughout the United States.

Photo: Jean Kelly & Dr. Harper UAB School of Nursing Dean Dr. Doreen Harper and Dr. Jean KelleyIn 1998, Kelley was among the 11 individuals in the inaugural class inducted into the Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame, which recognizes those who have made outstanding contributions to health care in Alabama. Kelley was one of only two nurses selected. In 2010, Kelley was recognized as one of the UAB School of Nursing’s 60 Visionary Leaders for her dedication to the growth and development of tomorrow’s nurse leaders and was recognized at the 2010 Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Annual Meeting for her significant contributions to nursing education. Kelley also is a recipient of UAB’s Distinguished Faculty Award, UAB School of Nursing’s Distinguished Alumni Award and served a term as the president of the School of Nursing’s Alumni Association.

Even in retirement, Kelley continued to play an active role in nursing education. She maintained involvement in many nursing activities, including her leadership in the SREB Nursing Education Programs, continuing to teach selected courses and sessions, present papers and provide consultation, and being a member of the Neuman Systems Model Trustees Group.

The Dr. Jean A. Kelley Endowed Lectureship was established in 1989 upon her retirement to honor her legacy as a revolutionary nursing educator. The Lectureship symbolizes Kelley’s legacy of mentoring students, graduates and colleagues; perpetuates her high standards of education; and sustains her belief that established scholars should guide and encourage the scholars of the future. The concept of a visiting lectureship at the School began with Kelley’s vision of providing doctoral students and faculty the unique experience of having both a formal and informal academic exchange with a different renowned scholar each year.

“Jean has been called a visionary, and rightly so,” Harper said. “Her contributions to nursing and the development of the nursing workforce have greatly benefited not only Alabama, but the nation as well. Nursing education has never had a more successful advocate, and UAB School of Nursing such a recognized alumna as Dr. Jean Kelley, and we are all better for having known her and learned from her.”

The family requests that any memorial gifts be made to the UAB School of Nursing Building Fund, 1720 2nd Ave. S., NB 1010, Birmingham, Alabama 35294. Gifts will be used to name a special tribute wall in honor of Dr. Kelley in the School’s building expansion, opening in Fall 2018.

Read 2327 times Last modified on April 09, 2018

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