Johnson Asks ‘Heroic Generation’ to Use GU Degree to Lead in Health Care

MAY 19, 2018 - To the members of the Class of 2018 at the School of Nursing & Health Studies, Luci Baines Johnson (H’18) said: dream, serve, and live a “purpose-driven life.”

At this afternoon’s Commencement ceremony, the businesswoman and second daughter of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and First Lady Lady Bird Johnson received the honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

“As health care professionals, every day you will have the great opportunity to lose yourself in the service of others,” she said. “And in return, you will find yourself again – every day.” (Watch a video of Commencement.)

Johnson delivered the address at the ceremony, which celebrated the graduation of 105 students who earned bachelor’s degrees in global health, health care management & policy, human science, and nursing; 371 students who received master’s degrees in health systems administration and nursing; and 12 students who received the doctor of nursing practice degree.

‘Many Dreams Fulfilled’

In 1965, Johnson began her undergraduate studies in nursing at Georgetown but decided to marry, which was not permitted then for nursing students during the early part of their education.

Since that time, she has remained connected with the university and has been longtime advocate for nursing, improving health, and providing educational opportunities. (Read the full Commencement citation, which was read at the ceremony by Melody Wilkinson, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, director of the Family Nurse Practitioner Program.)

“While I left Georgetown, I never left my love for this university, the nursing profession, or the field of health care,” she said. “. . . Since I left Georgetown, I have had many dreams fulfilled – in a life of volunteer service, motherhood, and business. But no experience in my life equals today. Today is even more than I dared dream of. To be given an honorary doctorate by my alma mater 53 years after I started college is simply as good as it gets. And as good as it gets is what your families are feeling about all of you.”

During her speech, which received a standing ovation in a packed McDonough Arena, Johnson acknowledged two relationships she began at Georgetown, including one with her mentor, the late Rev. William J. Kaifer, S.J., and the second with her classmate, BSN alumna Ellen Eggland (NHS’69), who attended today’s ceremony.   

Values-Based Education

In her opening remarks, Patricia Cloonan, PhD, RN, the school’s dean, called Johnson “a true daughter of Georgetown.”

She asked all graduates to use the knowledge and values-orientation they gained at Georgetown throughout their lives.

“We are blessed to be in a school within this great Catholic, Jesuit university that is committed to the common good, to service, and to social justice,” she said. “These values are interwoven throughout all of our work at NHS and in a collective enterprise to promote health equity and to ensure the health and well-being of all people – with a particular and intentional focus on individuals who are vulnerable, marginalized, and underserved.”

‘Invaluable Gift’

As a part of Commencement weekend, the school recognized student achievement at several events. A Tropaia Ceremony honored accomplishments of the undergraduate class. (Download the Tropaia print program by clicking here.)

Jaclynne Nader (NHS’18), who earned a bachelor’s degree in human science, delivered the student address at Tropaia. She thanked her family, professors, friends, and classmates.

“Thank you, Georgetown, for the invaluable gift of an education that empowers and motivates us to use our degrees to better our society,” she said. “Upon graduating, we will take our education, the values that have molded us and our memories, and thoughtfully piece together these aspects of ourselves to make a difference for the betterment of the places we are and the people we are with.”

She recounted how, as a first-year student, she lived in Harbin Hall and could witness the sun setting.

“In a similar sense, as I watch the sun set on my time at Georgetown I am overwhelmed by the beauty,” Nader said. “The beauty of the colorful, sometimes messy memories that make up my sunset. And I’m certain that if you take the time in the coming days to reflect on your own memories, you’ll share the same sense of overwhelming gratitude for your own sunsets.”

Student Honors

At Tropaia, three students were recognized with school-wide awards.

Jake Schwartz (NHS’18), who will be entering McGill University Faculty of Medicine, earned the Dean’s Medal for graduating first in the undergraduate class. Jacy Neczypor (NHS’18), who will be joining the Peace Corps, received the Rose Anne McGarrity Service Award. Lastly, Chandler Hinson (NHS’18), who will be attending the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, won the Sister Helen Scarry, RJM, DMin, Award for Commitment to Social Justice.

The school’s academic departments with undergraduate majors also recognized outstanding student achievement at Tropaia with Lura Auel (NHS’18) being honored in nursing, Anna Cardall (NHS’18) in human science, Laura Chant (NHS’18) in global health, and Alexandra Gordon (NHS’18) in health care management & policy.

Additionally, new professional nurses received their unique Georgetown University nursing pin at the Department of Professional Nursing Practice’s Pinning Ceremony. Georgetown’s chapter of Sigma Theta Tau also inducted new members.

‘Heroic Generation’

The graduates, whom Johnson called the “heroic generation,” are prepared to lead in the improvement of health care.

“As graduates of Georgetown’s School of Nursing & Health Studies, you have the critical thinking skills, the excellence in education, and the commitment to service that is needed to address the Herculean health care tasks that lie ahead,” she said.

“Congratulations,” said Johnson, who later spent time with graduates and their families after the ceremony. “Today enjoy your graduation and all of its glory. Tomorrow keep dreaming, keep serving, keep knowing that in the end there is no greater reward than a purpose-driven life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Said Johnson: “Hoya Saxa.”