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Retiring professors take away memories and leave lasting impressions

Jul 15th, 2013 | Category: Feature Stories

By Crystale Lopez

The University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) bid farewell to two remarkable professors this spring. Dr. Dianna Tison ’64 BSN, assistant professor in the Ila Faye Miller School of Nursing and Health Professions, retired after 42 years at UIW, and Dr. Jo LeCoeur, professor of English in the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS), also began her retirement concluding 36 years of teaching and service.

“It took a while to come to the decision to retire since I enjoyed working with the students and seeing them achieve their successes,” Tison shared. “However, there comes the time you have the realization that excellence in the UIW Ila Faye Miller Nursing program will continue as we have been fortunate to hire very talented and dedicated faculty that will continue the program and vision for the future.”

Tison in the early 1960s while completing her BSN at UIW, then Incarnate Word College.

Tison in the early 1960s while completing her BSN at UIW, then Incarnate Word College.

Tison and LeCoeur were also awarded emerita status. This title of respect acknowledges their retirement and recognizes the contributions they have made to the university.

Throughout her tenure at the university, Tison has touched the lives of many students and her colleagues. She was also instrumental in the success of the nursing program.

“Dianna was a team player who turned challenges into innovative opportunities,” said Dr. Jennifer Cook, associate professor in the School of Nursing. “She was very willing to do the research and follow through on creative problem solving. She can be described as a ‘champion web surfer’ who enthusiastically brought forward ‘what-if ’ and ‘let’s try this’ approaches.”

Dr. Julie Nadeau, assistant professor and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program chair, said Tison also facilitated students’ initial transition into the professional nursing role.

“She always encouraged students to consider the individual patient as a biological, psychosocial and spiritual human being – not as a disease or diagnosis,” Nadeau said.

Tison said it was a joy to encourage young minds to expand their knowledge and use their talents in a calling that provides important services to mankind.

“Hearing of the success of graduates and meeting them in the community is what I enjoyed most about being a professor,” she shared. “All of my students are famous in their own special way to those they care for in the many settings they practice.”

Cook said she has many great memories of working and teaching with Tison.

“I think her positive attitude about the actual and potential capabilities of learners has been a highlight for me,” she said. “She has a way of looking at student barriers to success as what can be done differently to assist them to be successful.”

Tison said she will greatly miss her colleagues in teaching and the wonderful “sharing of knowledge” atmosphere that exists at UIW.

For LeCoeur, stepping into the role of professor was not an option. “God gave me free will in every life choice except the decision to become a professor,” LeCoeur said. “Teaching was my calling.”

LeCoeur (center) visits with former UIW president Sterling Wheeler and his wife Dot in the late 1970s.

LeCoeur (center) visits with former UIW president Sterling Wheeler and his wife Dot in the late 1970s.

Making UIW her permanent home seemed reinforced through a sign from above. One evening during a fierce storm, the rain was making her homesick for New Orleans. “As I began to think about going back to Louisiana, my office suddenly filled with an atomic burst of light and thunder shook the walls,” she said. “Two stories above my head, the cross atop the UIW Administration Building had been struck by lightning. That was memorable.”

Dr. Bernadette O’Connor, professor of philosophy in the CHASS, had the privilege of working with LeCoeur for 23 years. She said over the years LeCoeur served in all the ways faculty are required to, but touched her colleagues most deeply by sharing her poetry. She also had two great effects on her students.

“First, she has the poetic gift, and by giving students semester after semester, in class and in personal conferences, access to her poetic spirit, she, in turn, gifted and inspired them,” O’Connor said. “Her second great effect on her students was to teach the discipline requisite for writing – and indeed, for living – well in her students.”

LeCoeur said the UIW Mission influenced her teaching with daily reinforcement of lifelong learning.

“The UIW Mission Statement commits us to ‘educational excellence,” O’Connor said. “Those words are so common that they can become meaningless, but for Dr. LeCoeur they were not just words; they set the standard she always tried to achieve, for herself and for her students.”

Although Tison and LeCoeur have retired as full-time professors, they each intend to continue pursuing their goals.

Tison plans to continue teaching part-time through UIW’s RN to BSN program online. LeCoeur will continue writing and reading performance poetry.

“As a lifelong learner, one never meets all their goals; we just keep set- ting new ones,” Tison said.

See page 2 for additional photos.

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