COLUMBIA — Rosemary Porter has spent 29 years caring for the students and faculty of the MU Nursing School, eight of them as dean.
Now, she says, it’s time to care for a new generation: her three grandchildren.
Porter announced Monday that she has decided to retire in just less than a year. Her last day will be Sept. 1, 2008.
“I’ve been thinking about this for almost two years,” she said. “I always knew I was going to be ready to retire at this time. I’m ready to have more travel time and more time with my grandchildren.”
But as Porter looks around her office and reflects on the things she will miss, a smile crosses her face.
“I love the School of Nursing and the university,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful journey.”
Roxanne McDaniel, associate dean of undergraduate and master’s programs for the school, knows she will miss Porter.
“She’s always very positive and promotes that attitude and promotes her school,” McDaniel said. “She’s just a really great cheerleader for everyone.”
In her first years as dean, Porter introduced her inverted pyramid approach to management, which placed students at the top of the pyramid.
“I feel my role is to provide a positive work environment for our faculty and staff here. And then, they in turn provide a positive learning environment for the students. So, I hope I’m role-modeling from the top,” she said.
Porter’s tenure at MU saw many important developments for the nursing school. The school’s annual grant awards have increased almost five times over, and enrollment of pre-nursing students have increased 73 percent, Nursing School Communications Director Pam Roe said. The nursing program, established in 1920, accepts 55 students per semester and has always been full, according to a previous Missourian report.
In addition, the school formed a partnership with AmeriCare Systems Inc. to create and operate TigerPlace, an assisted-living site for senior citizens. Porter cites TigerPlace as one of her biggest achievements as dean. The project brought her to the state capitol in her fight to get the project approved. The project required special approval because TigerPlace currently cannot accept Medicare or Medicaid patients.
“I think a lot of people thought the School of Nursing will never be able to complete that project,” Porter said. “But we did, and it’s been very successful. We’re about to add 23 new units.”
In the years to come, although Porter will be gone, she will never be far away. She wants to continue to be a part of the school.
“I’m sure I’ll be doing a lot of volunteering around here,” she said.
Porter is confident she is leaving the school in good hands. Her accomplishments, she says, were made possible by those of the leaders before her and couldn’t have been accomplished without the help of those around her. Vicki Conn, the nursing school’s associate dean for research, believes that Porter has ensured the school’s success for the long term. Conn has known Porter for 21 years.
“She was never looking to build her resume and then move on somewhere else,” Conn said. “She’s very willing to do things that will benefit us down the road.”
And Porter plans to leave behind a philosophy she believes will continue to propel the school to new success.
“This sign has been here since my first day as dean,” Porter said, standing up and walking over to the door. She smiles and points at the sign with two intersecting lines. One line, sloping downward, is labeled “Protect and defend.” The other line curves upward and reads “Learn and grow.”
“I’ve always used that sign in difficult situations. I kind of think about that as part of my retirement,” she said. “This is another time in my life to learn new things and to grow.”