Dr. Ruth Waite’s career at Stritch started with what she calls “a fluke.”
While working at another nursing program, Waite agreed to teach one graduate course at Stritch. Then she found herself hooked into teaching a second course…and a third.
“I noticed there was a difference in the feel of this University, and it was the people, the environment, the caring, the respect, the support,” said Waite, remembering what compelled her to apply for the job as chair of the Master of Science in Nursing program, a position she began in 2001. “Those are the kinds of things that you don’t experience in every place that you work. I saw, I would say, the mission of the University being lived out every day.”
She possessed an extensive network of contacts and a comprehensive professional background that eventually led to her appointment as dean of the Ruth S. Coleman College of Nursing in 2006.
“I brought a variety of experience here that I think helped the College of Nursing make appropriate changes and assess program strengths and weaknesses,” Waite said. “I’ve been involved in program review and assessment; I’ve had experience in qualitymanagement; and I’ve held leadership, clinical and educator roles. And, given all that, coming to Stritch, I thought I brought a fairly broad experience in some areas and very singular strengths in others.”
Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Anthea Bojar credits Waite with successfully leading the College through several significant accreditations and helping facilitate numerous partnerships between the College and area hospitals and medical centers, including the Agape Community Center and Aurora Health Care.
“Without question, these efforts have greatly enhanced the educational experience of our nursing students, providing them the practical experience they need to make an immediate impact in their careers,” Bojar wrote in Waite’s retirement announcement. “And intaking our programs to these locations, she has helped us to showcase the best elements of our Franciscan identity.”
Waite stresses that these accomplishments required a group effort from the whole College of Nursing.
“I can’t take full credit for making things happen in the College. I think it’s the faculty and the staff who work as a team in planning our future.”
She speaks highly of the faculty and the meaningful connections they make to students.
“The faculty in all the programs are so student-centered,” Waite said. “I’ve not seen that in many places where faculty spend the amount of quality time with students; our faculty do this because they have the desire for the students to succeed. And theyare always looking at improving the courses and the curriculum so the content and practice opportunities reflect not only the present but also the future of nursing and health care.”
Former assistant professor Sharon Garrett said Waite also focuses on guiding and uplifting the people around her to create a culture of caring and compassion within the College of Nursing.
“Even in her hectic, busy administrative schedule, she always made time for both faculty and students,” Garrett said. “She was there to listen to my concerns about my teaching, then helped me not take myself so seriously. She helped me to put situations in perspective with her great sense of humor and wit.”
Waite proudly recalls two significant grants received during her tenure, including a $263,000 grant allowing Stritch to offer its Bachelor of Science in Nursing-Completion program onsite at the local veterans hospital and a Pfizer grant, given to only 11 institutions in the nation, that funded a conference on health literacy
at Stritch in May 2011.
“That was a feather in our caps,” Waite said. “So we’ve been busy. Very busy.”
As one last feather in her cap, Waite is leading the College through yet another accreditation effort, and officially will retire on Sept. 30. When that day comes, Waite plans to maintain her memberships with and participation in key professional organization as her way of staying connected to the profession and continuing to give back through volunteer activities. In addition, she expects to spend ample time relaxing in her Northwoods cabin, helping her son with his business, nurturing her creative side, and keeping healthy.
Garrett, who retired in 2010, said she looks forward to sharing some of those retirement memories with Waite.
“Dr. Waite is a phenomenal nurse, dean, and friend. Her attributes cross all of these roles and make her a member of my ‘special person club.’ She is caring, fun, ethical, knowledgeable, fair, and is serious about her call to service. …I know she will be a loss to Stritch, but as a fellow retiree, we will now have time for
To wish Ruth Waite well, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.