A decade ago, May L. Wykle, The Marvin E. and Ruth Durr Denekas Professor, wasn’t dreaming of leading Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. Then the school’s associate dean, she always saw herself as a second-in-command support figure.
“It took a lot of convincing to get me to take on the role of dean,” Wykle says. “At first, I said I’d do it on a temporary basis. Almost 10 years later, I’m still here.”
Yesterday, in a meeting with faculty and staff, the school’s first African-American dean announced she will step down to give greater attention to her research and teaching endeavors—and, as she says, to make way for fresh leadership.
“Ten years seems like quite enough,” she says.
Wykle will remain in office through the end of the 2010 calendar year while the university conducts a search for her successor. Provost W. A. “Bud” Baeslack III emphasized that his goal is to find a dean who builds on the significant academic progress the school has made under Wykle’s leadership.
“Dean Wykle is committed to advancing the profession of nursing through research and education,” Provost Baeslack said. “She is internationally renowned as a scholar in her own right, and dedicated to developing outstanding students and faculty at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. We are proud of her contributions to the school’s success.”
A three-time Case Western Reserve alumna, Wykle joined the university as a faculty member in 1969. A psychiatric mental health nurse, she went on to become an expert in geriatric mental health and care giving. Wykle also held a joint appointment as Director of Nursing at Hanna Pavilion of University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Chairperson of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. In addition, she served as Director of Case Western Reserve’s Center on Aging and Health.
Wykle was a member of the White House Conference on Aging and served as the 24th president of Sigma Theta Tau International, the nursing honor society. She is Secretary of The Gerontological Society of America, a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, and President of the Friends of National Institute of Nursing Research.
In 2007, after more than 400 organizations and individuals made contributions, the Board of Trustees established the May L. Wykle Endowed Professorship, an honor Wykle calls her greatest thrill. The chair was the first at Case Western Reserve named for an African American. The achievement was especially poignant for Wykle, who recalled being denied admission to several nursing schools in the 1950s because of her race. The experience forged a fierce desire to spare others such obstacles by blazing new trails herself. Under her leadership, the number of students from diverse backgrounds has increased at the school.
Among Wykle’s many pioneering roles were her appointment as the inaugural Pope Eminent Scholar at the Rosalynn Carter institute for Human Development at Georgia Southwestern State University, the establishment of the school’s flight nursing program and her work developing nursing programs at universities in Uganda and Zimbabwe. In addition to these programs, the school also has expanded its international outreach in general, drawing more students from abroad and allowing U.S. students increased opportunities to attend global programs.
“Dean Wykle’s work has helped shape nursing around the world and left an indelible mark on the school, “Provost Baeslack said. “We are grateful for her leadership.”
After stepping down as dean, Wykle plans to pursue a sabbatical and ultimately return as a member of the faculty.
“Students are my first love,” she says. “I’m looking forward to devoting more time to them.”
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