Vernice Ferguson, Administrator, NYU Nursing Alum, Dead at 84

NYU.edu | 12/18/2012, 4 p.m.

She was a past president of Sigma Theta Tau, nursing's international honor society. In her inaugural message to Sigma Theta Tau in 1985, she urged her colleagues to develop their own roles as mentors: "Tip the scale in favor of the budding young researchers, educators, administrators, and entrepreneurs, for they will provide the scholarly leadership for the profession and health care in the years to come."

She also was the first nurse to receive a Freddie Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. The Freddie Awards are presented by the MediMedia Foundation to recognize excellence in electronic, health-related and educational materials. Previous honorees include Jonas Salk, Bill and Melinda Gates, Christopher Reeve, and Jerry Lewis. She also was recognized by New York University College of Nursing with its Distinguished Alumni Award in 2010.

In 1995, Ferguson spent nine weeks in South Africa serving as Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Nursing Science at the University of the North West. While in South Africa in her capacity as president of the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care, she toured the country extensively. She met health care providers in university nursing programs and visited homes in townships and squatter camps. She conducted workshops and presentations, most of which were geared to cancer care and health policy issues. She used her abilities as a consummate teacher to lead her international humanitarian efforts.

Most recently, she served on the Quality Care Committee of the Bon Secours Health Care System, the Independence Foundation's Advisory Committee on Nurse Managed Primary Health Care Initiative, the Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellows Advisory Committee and the Board of Overseers, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. She also was immediate past chairman of the Nova Foundation of the Nurses Organization of the Department of Veteran Affairs.

At the 25th anniversary celebration of the American Academy of Nursing in 1998, Vernice Ferguson was honored as a "Living Legend," an exemplary role model whose contributions continue to make an impact on the provisions of healthcare in the United States and internationally.

"Dr. Ferguson was a pioneer in nursing leadership whose eloquent and inspirational leadership energized several generations of nursing leaders throughout the globe," said New York University College of Nursing's Dean Eileen M. Sullivan-Marx, PhD, RN, FAAN. "She felt deeply about diversity and rights of all people and moved us all forward."

A much sought-after speaker, Ferguson was legendary for presentations that were both imaginative and challenging. As a frequent contributor to research journals, she recognized the need for nurses to interact with many publics and encouraged her colleagues to be actively involved in community and professional organizations. She was recently profiled as one of five contemporary pacesetters of the nursing profession in Leadership for Change: An Action Guide for Nurses.

Her teaching appointments included the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Illinois, Georgetown University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Ferguson is survived by her sister, Velma O. Ferguson, of Colorado Springs, six nieces and nephews and many great nieces and nephews.

A memorial service is planned at New York University College of Nursing in early 2013.