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Lasting Legacies

June 30, 2020

This year, Dr. Dianne Cooney Miner, founding dean of the Wegmans School of Nursing, and Dr. Michael Wischnowski, dean of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education, are retiring from their deanships. But they won’t go far from campus – Dr. Wischnowski will return to the School as a faculty member and Dr. Cooney Miner will assume full-time the role of executive director of the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing.

We asked them to share some parting thoughts as they begin their next Fisher chapter.

Mike Wischnowski

As I look back on my time as dean of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education, I am amazed at what the faculty and staff were able to accomplish during one of the most unsettled and contentious times for the field of education in my 40+ year career.  In spite of the political, social, and economic upheaval, we found ways to be relevant in Rochester and beyond, internally providing top-notch preparation of our teacher and leader candidates with an eye toward social justice, while externally influencing our local districts and organizations with technical assistance, professional development, and thought leadership.  If it takes a village to raise a child, we have been responsible and responsive citizens for much of that raising in the many communities our teacher and leader graduates serve.  Much gratitude to our faculty and staff who helped “raise” these graduates to do their best work.

As I write this in semi-quarantine, a lesson coming out of the pandemic is that so many families are being reminded as to how “essential” teachers are.   I am also proud to be a part of a profession that can rise to the task, with leadership and organization, of putting a new infrastructure in place so quickly, so that learning can continue. 

Through all of the consternation in the field, Fisher has never forgotten that the core nucleus of education is the relationship between the teacher and the student, not only in what the teacher prepares, delivers, and assesses, but also how they show they care.  If our recent accreditation visit is any indication (and I think it is), we are among the top schools in the nation that delivers on this promise of competence and compassion through our graduates to our society.  Much gratitude to our faculty and staff for modeling this competence and compassion.

I confess.  Through the pandemic, my wife, Barb, and I have binge-watched a lot of Netflix.   One series we enjoyed was The Crown. Season 3 covers Queen Elizabeth II’s reign through the turbulent 1960s and the complicated relationships she had then with family and politicians.  An important relationship the season featured was between the Queen and Prime Minister Harold McMillan, one that starts rocky but develops into one of mutual respect.  At one point, the Prime Minister says (I paraphrase) to her about their mutual roles, “We hope that we calm more crises than we cause.” This resonated with me.  I realized it was something I aspired to, and I hope fulfilled enough, as dean. Much gratitude to the Fisher administration for their steadfast support of the School of Education during these turbulent times. 

A school is only as good as the students it graduates.  It has been our privilege to work with such wonderful people seeking knowledge here at Fisher.  They stay with us for that short time, whether it be at the undergraduate, master's, or doctoral level, and then turn around and take their learning with them, double down on it, and change lives and communities, most often for children.  Much gratitude to the students who trusted us, listened, taught us back, and upon leaving made such a positive impression on the world while putting the Fisher name on it.  You are our greatest legacy, and we are so fortunate to be a part of your lives.

Thank you for this opportunity and best wishes to all of my Fisher colleagues, alumni, and current students.  Let’s continue to calm more crises than we cause.

Michael Wischnowski, Ed.D.
Dean and Professor

Dr. Dianne Cooney Miner

Last year, I experienced a great sense of pride when I read that the World Health Organization was declaring 2020 as the Year of the Nurse. Over my long career, I have had numerous firsthand and multifaceted experiences that illustrate the contributions of my profession to patient care, to the advancement of health systems, and to the transformation of policy and practice.  Indeed, each time I welcome new students to the Wegmans School of Nursing I faithfully share with them examples of these multifaceted contributions. I caution them to be very serious about their studies because what they know and what they do makes a difference in people’s lives. I did not need the World Health Organization to acknowledge the importance of nurses, who comprise the largest group of health care professionals in the world. However, as I moved closer to my retirement as the founding dean of the Wegmans School of Nursing, I welcomed this special honor and endorsement.

Each day since the advent of COVID-19, our world is making history through advancing science, transforming policy, optimizing systems, and, in the case of nurses, through simply going to work. When I first became a registered nurse we did not talk about going to work. We called it “duty.” Statements like “I was on duty” or “I am on duty for the next four nights” were common parts of our “nurse speak,” of our nursing vernacular.  I am sorry that we do not use this term anymore because it means so much more than work.  It describes not only the work of practice but also the moral and legal obligations that compel professional nurses to provide care that is knowledgeable, skillful, and competent, and care that aligns with the education law that demarcates the profession of nursing from other professions. Care that is based on science, shaped by ethics, and follows a long tradition of courage and service to the greater good. Duty means to me that despite all of the risks, all of the worries, all of the shortages of PPEs and the limited quantities of reliable COVID-19 tests, despite all of these dangers, nurses go to work.

Every day around the country, our remarkable Fisher nurses go to work, proud of who they are, confident in what they know, and committed to what they do. They go to work proud to call themselves a Fisher nurse and proud that they embody the goodness, discipline, and knowledge of their Fisher education and its Basilian tradition. And so, to counteract my sadness over leaving, I ask myself simply: “Who could desire a more meaningful or rewarding legacy than this?”

I wish to express my sincerest gratitude to the nursing and mental health counseling faculty and staff for their essential contributions to all of our programs’ successes. I wish especially to thank Dr. Marilyn Dollinger for both her friendship and her critical partnership. I am thankful for the support of President Bain, President Rooney, and the Board of Trustees and grateful for the generosity of Robert and Peggy Wegman. I remember them in my prayers along with my friend, Father Joseph Lanzalaco, CSB, whose generosity of spirit, wise counsel, and unforgettable sense of humor I sorely miss. Lastly, I wish to express my very special thanks to Mr. Tom Golisano and the Golisano Foundation for allowing me to set a new course and remain on duty.

Dianne Cooney Miner RN, PhD, FAAN
Founding Dean and Professor