Professor Donna Diers passed away on Saturday, February 24, 2013.
Dr. Diers was the Annie W. Goodrich Professor Emerita, sixth dean of the School, and American Academy of Nursing Living Legend. She will be remembered for her many contributions to the School as a teacher and administrator, but also for her contributions to the profession. She chronicled and advocated for the development of advanced practice nursing and engagement in public policy.
If you haven't left your remembrances of Donna, please take a moment and share them in this form. Responses will be posted below.
Below are some remembrances from past and current colleagues at Yale University School of Nursing:
Harriet and I are saddened to learn of Donna's death. While we struggled through our programs in an economic sense, we were enriched and energized by Donna's presence, style, intellect, energy, passion, humor wrapped in an approachable Western Friendly Dean's suit...leather as Harriet recalls. We hope Donna's family and loved ones grieve fully and feel uplifted by the legacy she left with her Yale family. - Ray Fellows '80 and Harriet Fellows '78
Sharing memories of Donna is difficult. She was dean when I was a student in the late 1970s and she was the person who gently nudged me into health policy. Correction - gently pushed me right into the cold water. She never explained or said why. I assumed that if Donna thought it was right, then I should just do it, and of course, then I must write about it. And so, since then, even when I wasn't at YSN, Donna was with me, inquiring, responding to my (hand-written) letters, and most of all, always encouraging me. She honored my ideas and encouraged me to pursue my (grandiose) dreams. She believed in me often more than I believed in myself. And, she was brutally honest, as when we started the Nursing Management, Policy and Leadership Program (NMPL) and she first told me I was crazy if I thought it would work, then shortly thereafter told me she would help in whatever way she could. And yet, there are other stories about Donna that for now, I want to cherish as mine and not yet share because she had such a profound and personal impact on my life and professional development. We have all lost a friend, mentor, and gracious leader. I will honor her by keeping her words and wisdom with me as I continue to navigate the rough waters that she expected me to swim in over 30 years ago. - Sally Solomon Cohen '80, Faculty 1993-2009
Thank you for the official YSN letter informing me about the passing of Dr. Diers. It was only a few months ago (January, 2013) when I purchased Donna's book, "Speaking of Nursing", on ebay. I needed to read Donna's thoughts and words about nursing so that I could pass them on to my nursing students. It's been over ten years since I graduated, but my memories of Donna are fresh in my mind. I looked forward to her lectures because she made data come to life. I can still picture her drawing this huge, over 7 feet long, diagram on how people get into the health care system. It was such a fascinating lecture and a long one too. I remember running out of paper and having to continue my notes on the backside of her handouts. She will be missed, but NEVER forgotten. I'll make sure my nursing students at Chaminade University at Honolulu, learn about her great contributions to nursing. - Eva Gallegos '01
She was very young when I was her student in nursing research. Very, very smart. She came to school by bicycle and her pig tail hairs. She cut her hair when she became Dean, the youngest Dean of Yale and the youngest Dean I had ever seen in my life at that time. I was so excited and called Dr. Ruby L. Wilson that if Dean Diers could be the Dean at her age, Somchit or Kanika could be Ramathibodi Nursing Director too. I told Dr. Wilson that at YSN, a person was respected because of her ability, not her age, which made Dr. Wilson laugh so loud through my telephone. - Poolsook (Posyasvin) Sriyaporn '73
Donna, my thesis supervisor, who guided me through from conceptualization of the research problem and many critiques of the thesis to successful completion. Thank you for your expertise and encouragement, I am deeply grateful. - Virginia Plummer, Monash University Australia
In teaching nursing research, Donna Diers taught us students to think, to be objective, to be analytical, and to be enthusiastic about learning. For me, her approach was such a breath of fresh air compared to the deadly nursing theory course. Her influence goes far beyond nursing practice, she continues to influence my life daily and how I approach problems. Donna Diers gave me the structural knowledge and confidence to tackle many situations, such as how to successfully organize a community effort to control the spread of noxious weeds, how to prepare for a husband’s post-op after a double knee replacement, and how to develop a means of rapid communication within a 17,000 acre large semi-rural area. She influenced me to be energized by formidable challenges and gave me the tools to be a vital community advocate – state the problem in measureable terms, research the problem/do a literature review, develop & execute a plan, then measure results, limitations and implications of that plan. Thank you, Donna Diers. - Sen (Lin) Speroff '76
Couldn't wait for my next copy of Image so that I could read Donna's pithy editorials. One of her best (I think delivered during a commencement speech) was: “Believe in nursing, in the wildest possible expanse of role and function, and believe so strongly that your beliefs can sustain you through the battles with the unknowing, unthinking, deluded, and barefoot pragmatists who wish to restrain the ideas and talents of nurses.” Post graduation, I kept this quote close to my line of vision in my CNS office at Boston Children's Hospital. She was the only one I'd let get away with calling me Marty. Saddened by our loss. - Martha A. Q. Curley '87
I heard and saw Donna speak in Hanover, N.H. in the early '80's. She inspired my application to YSN and pursuit of higher education within nursing at a time I was considering a career change. My work has been gratifying and challenging. I thank Donna Diers(and others!) for the inspiration! Thank-you Donna Diers, a full person who had a full life. - Kristin Hale '85
Watching her teach was amazing -as an observer and a participant. She would logically lay out all the details of a situation, giving you a really good understanding and wondering how this could be a teaching situation. She would then stand back and say "Oh, I forgot to tell you this part!" and drop a detail that threw everything you knew into chaos! She would stand back with a small smile on her face watching her students crazily grappling with the issue! She was the first guest invited to a new campus event called the "Kettledrum" and chose the topic "Why nursing?". I remember her describing all the aspects of nursing that might be rewarding, but the one that drew her in and kept her there was the intimacy she shared with patients. She was amazing and I feel privileged to have known her. - Nodie Sullivan '93
Donna saved me by understanding my desire to attempt an exploratory graduate thesis that would not yield anything well-defined or perhaps publishable, yet was what I truly wanted to do. Her support made all the difference to me; and I can testify as many others have that her willingness to challenge conventional wisdom was welcomed on many levels. - Nancy Outzs Laidlaw '86
What a great nurse, teacher and researcher we have lost. Through working with Donna on DRG related research in the mid-90's through to her last visit to our faculty in 2010 as a Visiting Professor - an inspirational colleague who will be missed. - Donna Waters, University of Sydney and Sydney Metropolitan Teaching Hospitals Research Consortium
In addition to all the wonderful tributes to Donna's intellect and compassion, I would like to thank her for the funky book club she started - our selections were so 70's and so interesting. She created a wonderful space for creativity and fellowship - an example of her life well lived and her broad perspective. - MaryLynn Tapager Wigodsky '73
I remember Professor Diers from a Clinical Informatics class at EPH. Her teaching style was enthusiastic and her love of her craft infectious. I learned Microsoft Access thanks to her. She was always encouraging, always positive - she made you want to learn. A sad loss for us all. - Carolyn Levinson '99
The loss of Donna is extremely personal and heart-breaking. I took her class she taught with John Thompson on Health Policy. It was the most informative class I have ever taken. I audited it for a second time and did all the assignments when I was told the course content was different each term. I still have my papers which she thoughtfully edited and I am so grateful that I do. I always felt welcomed dropping into her office to ask questions because she always seemed to help me come up with the answers. When I asked her to be my thesis advisor I was disappointed that she declined but she referred me to the two who would be better suited for my topic and she was right, as usual. I'll never forget her and the impact she had on my life and how I fit into the world as a nurse, but I am not surprised so many others felt the same. It is a terrific loss. - Nancy Reilly-Wohl '92
Donna joined our Colorado THEATREWORKS London theatre group several times and we only learned much later she was a living legend in her profession. But you find out a lot about people going to the theater with them and talking afterwards, and Donna was a terrific theatregoer: deeply appreciative, curious, intelligent, lots of fun, generous and not a bit sappy. She was the kind of person who gives credibility to the argument that theatre-going is an improving and civilizing sctivity - though in truth the theatre, like almost everything else she touched, was improved and further civilized by her association with it. We miss her very much and we will toast her memory. - Murray Ross
Dean Donna Diers will always be remembered by me with this title because she was not only the dean while I attended Yale School of Nursing, but she also was my thesis advisor, and teacher for nursing research. I always felt she understood what I was going through as a student from Chicago, Illinois, coming out of the Civil Rights era, with my Afro hair style, and often wondering how did I get to Yale University from the south side of Chicago. I was in the Nurse Midwifery Program and ran into a little trouble with some of my facilty members. I was out spoken when it came to discussing Black people and how they should be portrayed in a positive manner to my classmates and to society despite the negative traits in many books and research journals of that time. Dean Diers supported my efforts in every way and helped to make it possibe for me to stay at Yale and finish my program on time. I went on to teach at a state university in an African American and Hispanic community in Chicago, Illinois. My Yale degree allowed me to work with many patients during the maternity cycle and assist and encourage thousands of minority students to be the best nurses they could be. When I received my doctorate degree a while ago, I wrote and thanked her for her support. She wrote me a wonderful letter back which I will always cherish. Thank you again Dean Diers for your support and understanding. - Dr. Beverly Harper '73
The world was a better place for Donna being here. At the heart of all her work was how nurses can enhance the patient experience. As an early theorist in this field she argued passionately that nursing needed to develop its own research base and knowledge and more importantly, needed to understand itself as a discipline distinct from medicine, a courageous stance in the 1960s. She was one of the first nurse researchers (early 1970s) to argue that we need to know what it is nurses do that improves patients’ conditions, believing that much of her research is common sense, but in her own words “Common sense is all too uncommon” (Diers, 2004:16).
In Australia Donna’s work in data mining assisted nurses at managerial and clinical levels to use data to show the needs, vulnerabilities and strengths of their wards / activities which enabled them to have more control - to change staffing patterns, timing and methods of care, and the use of technology. Many of the nurses with whom she worked are in senior health-related roles now. Donna’s long association with Australia let her to undertake her doctoral work here. Selecting her most significant contributions to the literature she submitted a very powerful PhD from which an even more powerful book was developed – Speaking of Nursing (2004). The contribution Donna made to nursing and patient experiences of the care they receive, the ways the professions can impact policy with data, and the collaborative work nurses undertake with other health disciplines but particularly medicine, is significant and very evident in this text.
Thank you for your friendship and support over the years and all the Australian reds we shared together! - Christine Duffield, Donna's Australian Colleague
Share your memories of Donna Diers: There could be no greater teacher, friend or mentor. I have just learned of her death, one month later, am so very sad. - Judy Tierney '79
From my entry into YSN in 1977 until several months before she died, Donna has inspired my practice and my identity as a nurse for over 30 years. In her death, she will continue to inspire me to rise to new heights, to speak my truth and to exemplify all that is wonderful and unique about Yale nursing. Not only my Dean and teacher, Donna and I traveled the world as part of the Yale Healthcare Management Conference and shared a love for organizational behavior. She was equally "at home" with heads of national health services from countries in conflict as she was with a class of overwhelmed nursing students and she shared her wisdom, humor and eloquence similarly over a glass of wine or in the classroom. YSN and the profession of nursing will always be the better for her enormous contributions. An icon and a giant, it is still hard to believe she is gone. She will live on in our hearts and in the legacy she leaves behind. - Andree de Lisser '79, YSN Faculty
I took the opportunity to listen to the recording of our final Capstone Master Class the other night. It was fascinating to listen to Donna ask those pithy questions that challenged us individually to be both thoughtful and enlightened by what we had learned. Through the course of the session she was able to show us her vision of ourselves which was a unique and wonderful thing.
Donna also shared some of her personal experiences that gave us some insight into her life. I was particularly struck by her summarization of being one of the first female members of Mory’s. She described it as achieving “a doctoral degree in Yaleness”. She also explained how she was drawn to the kind of fights that were based on “unfairness and breeches of social justice”. (Really just like any other super hero, right? There were many moments that ranged from drily witty, to so funny that all you could hear on the recording was uncontrolled laughter then on to Donna’s own diabolical chuckle when she thought of new “ways to get nursing out there”. I know we’ll all keep trying to do the same. - Liz Clarke '10
I am deeply saddened to hear the news that Donna Diers passed away. She was such an inspiration to us at Yale Health. Her presentations gave us courage and hope that we are great nurses and that we do live up to her expectations. She seemed to bring out the best in every nurse she met! I think it was because she was truly devoted to nursing. My symapthy to her nursing families around the globe. - Melanie McCloskey
Donna will always be a wellspring of memorable quotations. Her use of language to tell a story, make a point or simply to inform was magic. Her Image editorials were a must read as soon as the journal arrived – always wise but also witty, poignant and provocative. One of my favorite quotes is, “With our hands and eyes we touch the lives of others and are admitted to the privacy of their inner space without even asking.” Discipline, choreography (balancing different demands), responsibility, caring, skepticism (keeping an open mind), perseverance, and passions are key to excellence in nursing (Diers, D. & Evans, D. L. (1980). Excellence in Nursing. Image: Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 12 (2), 27-30). Donna’s wonderful words over the years helped me appreciate that nursing is truly a privilege because of the special and intimate relationship we have with our patients. - Bernadette M. Forget '78
Donna had a wonderful way of supporting this young faculty member. When I was accepted to give an international presentation, she found a way to get me there. I received a typed memo telling me that she was appointing me a scholar on one of the school's endowed accounts....how typical...a quick note and a solution. Later, when I had been offered a position in the National Cancer Institute, Donna recognized the importance of having nurses in the NIH (this was before the NINR). She supported my transition and recognized the lonely road that would be ahead. I was prepared by Donna who had a sensitive, gentle way of allowing me to grow in the profession. Later in my life as I have been a dean, I recall the time she spent with me and the unfailing belief that I would succeed. I have tried to follow the example she gave. Many will speak of her beautiful command of the language (and I agree), but I shall remember the kind person who understood how to care for faculty. - Anne R. Bavier, YSN Facutly 1977-1985
When I came to Vanderbilt University School of Nursing 29 years ago, I wanted to change our BSN program and make it a "bridge" to our MSN program. Donna freely shared information from Yale and came as a consultant. We are VERY grateful for her help 29 years ago. - Colleen Conway-Welch, Friend of Donna's and Fellow Dean
Donna was a generous and warm colleague with a highly sophisticated intellect and a refreshingly honest critique of nursing and healthcare issues. She was an honorary Ozzie and spent quite a lot of time here helping us with research ideas and methods. We all loved her and will miss her friendship and advice, as well as her humour and generous hospitality for anyone visiting her at Yale. Go well dear friend. - Judy Lumby, University of Sydney and University of Technology Sydney Australia Faculty
How fortunate I have been to know Donna. I am so sorry for her loss to our community and profession. As she would speak of the privilege nurses have in caring for others, I too felt priveleged to have her as a mentor. I hope her courage and commitment will take root in nurses as we move in to the next era of health care. Oh how we enjoyed speaking of nursing.... - Mary Patricia Lamberti '94
Back in the 70’s I had just received my doctorate and was starting a nursing research program at MGH in Boston. Being new and basically without a mentor, I felt the need to speak with an experienced nurse researcher to comment upon my approach in this new endeavor. I knew of Donna’s work from her classic book on nursing research and I took the chance to see if she would speak with me - a stranger to her, to the region, and basically to the profession. Without hesitation she said of course she would see me and owed as to how she didn’t really know if she could help me. Help of course she did and such that she made me feel that I was on the right track. I never forgot that kindness and reassurance. She was indeed a special lady. - Cheryl B. Stetler
I first heard Donna speak at a New York State Nurses Association meeting in 1980. I was awed not only by her content, which was reassuring to advanced practice nurses seeking scope of practice legislation, but also by her abiliy to be clear, passionate, and positive about the ability for nursing in all forms to survive in an ever-changing health care system. When I came to Yale in 1991, she personally took a day off and gave me a personal tour of all three campuses while peppering me with an extensive history of the university. As I was seeking a degree in hitory, she introduced me to the Historians of Medicine and accompanied me to the Friday afternoon teas. Such generosity can never be forgotten. - Judith Shannon Lynch, YSN Faculty 1991-1994
Donna was my oldest and dearest friend. We were college classmates who met at age 18 at the University of Denver (the earth was still cooling then). We shared interests and indulged in friendly little rivalries in college like which of us could get out of the room first after finishing a multiple-guess test. Donna nearly always won. We played piano duets by the hour in the dormitory which drove our classmates mad but we sometimes got a paying gig which kept us in money for hats and the occasional bourbon-and-coke.
After graduation our paths went separate ways but we were always in touch. We traveled together, went to operas and the theatre together, read the same books, and shared life’s trials and triumphs. We hiked around the ruins of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, the Australian Outback, Stonehenge, Assateague, the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard and innumerable art galleries, museums and bookstores. And we still played piano duets.
At some point in all our visits, from our very different perspectives, we talked about Nursing. Donna’s passion for the profession was monumental as was her life’s work.
Donna’s death leaves a void in my life that will never be filled. But I will always cherish her memory and her friendship. - Jeanne Brush, University of Denver '60, Donna's Friend
I have thought of Donna and the essence of what I learned from her just about once a week for over 25 years, and am so glad that I had her as a classroom professor at Yale and critic of work I did there. Her singular focus on the results of what nurses do, rather than the study of nurses and nursing, is at the heart of my thinking just as much now as it was when she made me realize this key foundational concept. She was amazing and wonderful and gave so much greatness to our profession. - Shannon Fitzgerald '80
I was in the 3 Year Non-Nurse College Graduate Program from 1982 to 1985. Little contact with Donna during my YSN days but she gave a memorable talk in 1985. It was a packed room. Besides leaving the Deanship, she was planning to leave YSN. She shared with us her plans to write “a mystery.” I recall she mentioned something about taking propranolol for anxiety before public speaking and that always stuck in my head. I couldn’t imagine that someone so accomplished might have nerves before speaking. She was so personable, connecting with her audience of students and faculty with much wit and style. - Betty Ang '85
I remember Donna for her love of clear prose and hatred of murky thinking. Just talking with Donna would raise anyone's IQ a few points. It makes me sad that I'll never get the chance to do it again. - Colleen Shaddox, Former YSN Staff
Donna always stood out in my experiences at Yale. She taught me research and humor. After graduation I ended up living in an apartment down the hall from her apartment. She welcomed me as a neighbor. We are lucky she chose nursing and Yale as her place to expand. We have few leaders today in nursing so her passing is a loss. - Anita Ward Finkelman '71
In addition to nursing losing a living legend and eloquent voice, midwifery lost a dear friend. Donna championed the YSN Nurse-Midwifery Program and supported it through ups and downs, health care policy issues, licensure, and a birth center. Shextended her energy and intellect to the problems and issues of nurse-midwifery - which she understood clearly.
Donna served as an Editorial Consultant for the Journal of Nurse-Midwifery/Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health, gave a keynote speech at the ACNM Annual Meeting, and was considered by many to be an Honorary Nurse-Midwife. Nurse-midwifery was blessed to learn from her about ourselves. Nurse-midwifery has lost a treasured friend. - Heleny Varney Burst '63, YSN Professor Emeritus, Donna's Friend
Very sad to hear of Professor Diers passing. She was a gifted speaker and educator and I was lucky to have been in her audience. - Ann Trollinger '06
I so treasure this photo I have with a true Living Legend on her special day:
Donna and I had so much fun when I was a student at YSN. I remember going to her house and getting the Cook’s Tour of her dollhouses—true works of art! We used to co-teach case studies to MPH students, and I don’t know which of us had the better time bouncing ideas off each other and the students. She guided me through the thesis project with the care and acuity that she is so well-known for. And much later, when I was wondering whether to return to academia after closing my private practice, she offered the kind of advice that only a true mentor can. Donna gives new meaning to the words Wise Woman, and I will truly treasure the time I was gifted to have with her. – Cynthia B. Flynn '96
Donna was witty, passionate, and one of the most inspiring people I have had the opportunity to know and work with. As a student she pushed me to think outside of the box and experience nursing in ways that I did not know existed. That is the beauty of Donna's legacy. She has encouraged and cultivated hearts and minds of nurses around the world to speak up and make changes for the better of the profession. Thank you Donna for all you have done, your legacy lives on in all of us. - Tracelyn Hairston, YSN Student
Donna Diers was a remarkable woman,rancoteur,visionary, pioneer, scholar, mentor and friend. She challenged the status quo and asked her students to remember their responsibility as YSN graduates to do the same. She taught us so much more than how to effectively mine and use data to drive decisions; how to produce a product that pulled from our edcuational and formative experiences; and how to use our own personal, educational and professional experiences to shape a meaningful life. She taught us how to think independently; to challenge out-dated paradigms lacking evidence based foundations. She asked us to be accountable to ourselves; to have the fortitude to fail and succeed gracefully. Donna taught us these lessons using humor, grace, an indomitable wit, an enviable intellect and an unrivaled passion. She subtly challenged her students to be better. Better people, better professionals, better nurses and better advocates. She became my mentor and later my friend. I am so grateful to have been able to experience that degree of greatness. She never lost sight of the most important things in life and remained true to herself and to her profession till the end. Donna, you never lost faith- in me, in the power of nursing and in mankind. You can't imagine how many lives you have touched. I am blessed to be able to celebrate your life and to mourn your passing. - Leslie Marsh '10
I have had the amazing experience of learning from Donna Diers as a young MSN student 30 years ago, and again more recently as a new DNP student at YSN. Early in my career her wisdom and advocacy for the importance and value of nursing gave me a vision and sense of purpose. I was amazed to come back to Yale and once again be moved and changed by Donna's passion and insight. Because she has powerfully touched so many lives, I think we will continue to grow and learn from her, even though she is not with us in person. What a gift Donna Diers is to nursing! - Robin Wallin '85, DNP Student
I had the great privilege and honor of interviewing Dr. Diers for my Thesis. I was gathering information from former Deans and Professors who where at the Yale School of Nursing during the Black Panther Trials in the 1970's in New Haven. I am so happy to have recorded this interview and given it to the Yale School of Nursing archives. This interview will be available for future students to listen to and learn from Dr. Diers who will not have had the pleasure of knowing such a ledgend. Dr. Diers you will be missed but never forgotten. - Jane Regan '98
Since hearing the news of Donna’s death, I have visited the web site daily. I was expecting that someone would eventually report that news was issued in error. Donna Diers could not possibly be gone. After a week, I concede it must be true, although so difficult to believe. Donna was Yale. Others have described her wit, her fierce intellect and her ability to paint with words. All true, as was her personal vulnerability, noted by those who knew her best. But her role as institutional icon and the conscience of the School served us all and will never be replaced. Thank you, Donna. We are more for your time with us but less without you. - Catherine L. Gilliss, Dean and Professor 1998-2004
Donna may have been an administrator and researcher but she was also very approachable and hands-on with the students. You always felt comfortable stopping in to tap her brain for thoughts and experience. She really seemed to take great pride and pleasure in nurturing the upcoming generation of APN's who would follow in her footsteps and lead the way in advanced practice nursing. A warm and wonderful pioneer. - Dierdre O'Connor Rea, YSN Alumnae
I was very saddened to learn of Donna's passing. I was thrilled, and felt very fortunate, to have Donna as my thesis advisor. Her wit, charm, intelligence and most of all, her way of looking at the world, at looking at how nurses impact the healthcare system and at making the profound into common sense were qualities which made her unique, special and admired. Upon returning to YSN for visits, she was the person I most wanted to see and felt honored that she would greet little old me with such enthusiasm. Yes, a true honor. Donna was my nursing hero. I will miss her. - Stu Berger '92
Donna became Dean when I was Assistant to Kingman Brewster. She was then a nursing leader at a time when it was still extremely difficult to deal with the old image of nursing. Advanced practice nursing, midwifery, whatever project - all had tough opponents, but she was a true pioneer. At a later date Donna and I taught a class together in the MPH program and what a joy it was to teach with a woman of such intelligence and knowledge. But nothing equaled dinner with Donna at Consiglio's. Yale and I are forever in her debt. - Henry "Sam" Chauncey, Retired Secretary of Yale
I remember DD well, more than many other faculty at YSN. I was prepared not to find her topic of research that inspiring because it was far too contemplative and not enough action or people contact. Was I ever so wrong and misguided. And in addition to turning me around about the role of Nursing Research, DD taught me to think and problem solve, skills I use daily in all my life activities. It was indeed a great privilege to have Donna Diers as one of my teachers in my first year at YSN.Thank you YSN and Donna Diers. - Kleia Raubitschek Luckner '69
I never approached the most senior of senior faculty at YSN, even when I was a graduating PhD Student. In my Native American culture, we wait to be approached by our elders when it is our turn. I waited for my turn, and one day I tried to make an excuse for my turn to happen with Professor Diers. She must have thought me an odd duck as I stammered my way through an introduction. She patiently answered my question and returned to her work, slightly irritated by the interruption. I had been a student at Yale for 9 years, and had passed her in the halls many times, but had never taken a class or met her, so that was my moment and it was glorious. It was glorious, because I was a Donna Diers groupie. It was during my master’s degree at YSN when I read her writing, and it was through her writing that I saw that academic nursing wasn’t the beast that it first appeared. Her writing was a window into the wonderful, creative place that academic nursing could be, as she challenged authors to write cleanly and honestly and not allow themselves to hide behind scientific jargon. Reading her words inspired me to take the challenge and become a nurse scientist, and I will forever be in her debt. - Emily A. Haozous '03, '09
I had the honor of knowing and working with Donna when I was Clinical Director at the former YPI 1992-20000. Our relationship continued when YPI became YPH under Yale New Haven Hospital until I retired in 2011. The wonderful qualities that Donna possessed are known far and wide. One that most impressed me was her rather rare ability to create, understand, and apply data in a way that was truly meaningful, while exhibiting such warmth, passion, and devotion to nurses. She had a magnificent brain, yet the heart of a poet. She changed the way I thought about nursing outcomes, and moved me to tears each time I had the privilege of hearing her speak. The world was a better place when Donna was with us, but her legacy will live on. She will be missed. - Leslie H. O'Connor, Former Director of Psychiatric Nursing Services YPH/YNHH, YSN Assistant Clinical Professor & Preceptor
Donna was a grand lady. We all prospered when our paths crossed. - Pat Werner Bender
I have so many wonderful memories of Donna...the time she held a brown-bag lunch for the PMH students to meet Maggie Wacker, the nominee for the Division Director, and Maggie was showing all of us how to read auras. I remember Donna's skepticism and her delight when she was able to see a student's aura...the times in her Policy Class when she would have us analyze cases and I was always in awe of how much depth she saw in the cases and I wondered if I would ever be able to do the same...the times we sat next to each other in Barbara Safriet's Health Care Regulation Law class at the Law School and commiserated about what needed to be done to allow APRNs to practice to our full scope of practice...the times at the Delta Mu winter silent auctions when I would marvel at her incredible miniatures...the times she would eloquently weigh forth in YSN Executive Committee meetings while I was a student member...my laughter at her written and spoken humor, and the warmth in my heart I felt for her as a fellow compassionate and caring nurse...my glee when she was acknowledged as a Living Legend...and so many others.
I have been so blessed to have had Donna as a friend, teacher, mentor and colleague during my nursing career, and I am eternally grateful. She is, indeed, an Icon of international nursing, and will be dearly missed. Her legacy shall live on through all of us.
Mahalo nui loa, Donna, you will be forever a Shining Light for Nurses and for Nursing.
- Wailua Brandman '94
Reading Donna Diers' work was one of the most informative, thought provoking activity as a young nursing student and professional nurse. Her writings in Image inspired me in my career, just as she did for so many others. The nursing profession was fortunate to have such an elegant scholar among us. - Patrice Nicholas
It was just four days ago, before hearing of Donna's death that I thought to write her and say - Donna, why have I seen no nurses on TED Talks, no conversation about the power of nursing in the age of technology? I won't be able to now BUT - I challenge all of us to marshal our savvy and intellect and passion and in Donna's memory get on TED!!! - Alexandra Hunt '87
Coming to New Haven in 1978, a "three-year student," as we were called back then, I was convinced my very informal former college English teacher demeanor would not fit in well at Yale. Then I met Donna. She was decked out in a skin-tight black leather pants suit, and her tall and thin frame bore it well. My kind of dean, I thought. Indeed. Over the next 34 years, Donna graced me with her intellectual elegance and everything that went along with that. We published a piece together during my second year. She mentored me on my thesis, patiently. She was instrumental in my getting an exceptional first job, despite my lack of experience. Over the many years, we wrote and talked frequently, had supper together at home in New Haven or Martha's Vineyard, always accompanied by scintillating, animating conversations. "I talk the way I write," Donna once said, and "I think people find that odd." I loved it. The only thing odd about Donna was her towering intellect, her support of nursing practice, and her sometimes "before their time" ideas. Donna, I have now lost one of the finest friends of my life, someone whose continued support kept me within nursing practice for my entire career. A chill wind now blows through that hole in my heart your passing has rent. But you are still warmly here, in that innovative nursing research book you had written when you taught us the basics of this field, in your numerous unbelievably articulate speeches about nursing, in your cross-disciplinary integration of such a wide variety of programs, ideas, and practices, but perhaps mostly, for me, in that warm bowl of homemade stew you offered me at your house one day when I was most discouraged, followed by a remarkable conversation about the ANA and its Journal. Donna, just a few examples of a life well-lived and well-received, through you. I will close with Robert Binyon's popular poem,
"For the Fallen":
- David Evans '81
I regret I never got to know her personally, but there can be no doubt she had an amazing influence on nursing and on many who grew in their careers clinging to every word in her writings at the helm of Image. She had a much bigger impact than she could possibly have known. While it is easy to think of this loss as the end of an era, I imagine Professor Diers would have some wonderful motivating and straightforward words to spur others on to take up the intellectual and political work of advancing the discipline. She led the way in so many respects, may the rest of us do honor to her legacy by continuing to take on the challenges the she confronted with intellect, perspicacity, and dignity. Donna, you are missed immensely. - Beth Rodgers
A dear friend who hosted me on sabbatical at the School and Yale New Haven Hospital including the time of the Twin Towers attack and the School/hospital's response. A warm wonderful colleague, teacher and friend. - Dianne Pelletier, Guest of Donna, September 2011
I will always remember Donna as one who hired me to teach in the nursing research program at YSN. It was my first experience working with graduate students. What I will never forget is watching Donna lecture. She could engage the audience (students) quickly and make the talk memorable.....I could listen for hours. Her presence in the classroom was palpable and ever so strong. While I am saddened at the loss of Donna, I feel so fortunate to be the recipient of a dollhouse-sized miniature room, titled “The Night Before Christmas” – made by Donna and donated to Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing for purposes of raising monies for nursing research through a silent auction. Every Christmas I proudly display the miniature and feel Donna’s presence. How lucky I was to have worked and known Donna. - Jim Fain, YSN Faculty 1985-1994
Although I did not now Donna Diers personally, she greatly influenced the way that I think about nursing research and the implementation of nursing knowledge into practice. It is ironic that this very week I have been using her classic text "Research in Nursing Practice" to prepare two presentations on the future of nursing research. Her thinking, along with philosophers Dickoff and James, has influenced my thinking for over 30 years. I have saved few texts from my many years of education but this book is one with which I will never part. Donna, thank you for your incredible insight that has provided the framework on levels of inquiry for myself, many current researchers, and the researchers of nursing practice in the future. Your legacy will never die. - Alyce A. Schultz
'Use the data!" or "What does the data say?" are Donna Diers’ mantras that I still hear in my head 15 years after graduating from YSN. I was a member of the first doctoral class and Donna taught us the ‘Uses of Data’ course. Since that course I have ‘used the data’ for many personal and professional projects. Fast forward 15 years when I recently emailed Donna and asked her to come to Sacred Heart University to teach ‘Uses of Data’ to our first DNP cohort. She came, she taught, she WOWed our students! I have her power points, notes, and readings for ‘uses of data’ but I don’t know how I am going to fill her shoes and try to teach this content with the Donna Diers flair and stories…Bye Donna, I am really going to miss you! - Kerry Milner '98
Donna was a fierce proponent of nursing theory and research and exposed a rather naive Texas girl to all nursing could be. I regard Yale as one of the life changing epiphanies in my life and Donna was a clear component of that. I am grateful for what it did to turn my thinking inside out, open my mind and engage me in all the possibilities. Thank you,Dean Diers. - Dr. Carole Ann Miller McKenzie '73
An extraordinary international nursing leader died last weekend. Many Australian nurses and midwives also share the admiration, deep respect and the great gap that this woman will leave in our lives. Donna spent a great deal of time in Australia and I was privileged to know Donna both professionally and personally. Her wit, wisdom and written word will live on in her rich and large body of written work; but we have lost the personNurses in Australia also honour this great woman, nurse, teacher, communicator and scholar. - Amanda Adrian
I came to know Donna Diers when I was hired as a research scientist at Yale School of Nursing in 1989. Until that time, I had only read her works and was in awe of the elegance of her words and the depth of her thinking. She loved our profession, as much for the challenges we face every day as the significant contributions we make to patients' lives. And she wrote about all those dimensions is a way that made you just love the work of nursing as much as she did. After several years at YSN, I was asked to assume the role of Chair of the Specialty Care and Management Division of which Donna was a member. I received one of those handwritten notes that Margaret Grey described. It said: Paula, Congratulations on your new position, Boss. Please be assured of my help and support in any way I can do it! Donna
I remember thinking that in what alternate universe could I ever be considered the boss of Donna Diers!!! Then I realized how incredibly generous she was to write me this note and offer her support and help. In my years at Yale School of Nursing, I saw that generosity of spirit over and over again with faculty, with colleagues at YNHH and with students in whom she saw the future.
I still have the note which I keep with my most treasured items. I feel lucky that I knew her and was able to learn from her. - Paula Milone-Nuzzo, YSN Faculty 1989-2003
I was so sad to learn that Donna Diers is no longer with us. I cherish the memories of her wit and wisdom in the classroom as she shared her keen intellect and sage advice, constantly challenging us to see the bigger picture. Her passion for nursing was so keen, she was truly an inspiration. She will be greatly missed but her legacy will live on in all the lives she touched. How fortunate I feel to have had her as a mentor. She was forthright and kind and available. I truly feel privileged to have known her. - Elaine Gustafson '86 & YSN Faculty
Donna once shared with me that she absolutely loved to get dressed up. Right. To me, she was quinticentially informal. But she loved Yale's formal affairs and she could recall every single outfit (usually floor-length gowns) that she wore at each of these events...and there were many. She especially remembered the color of the dress and the style of the shoe. So when we first began to think about YSN's 90th anniversary celebration, she strongly suggested a "gala", formal wear and all! Donna, you touched many lives and we are the better for it. Thank you. - Lisa Hottin, YSN Director of Development
My heart is heavy with the news of Donna's passing. To date in my career, she has been one of the most influencial mentors I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She was my professor and my thesis advisor. She challenged us all but never without humor and unselfish support and encouragement. We will always thank her for making us better no matter where our paths may have led us. Our challenge now is to continue to make her proud as we carry on her legacy. With love, admiration and the fondest of memories... may you rest in peace Donna. - Gina (Plowright) Kearney '92
I was a year behind donna in the old msn program. I watched her evolve from the sidelines. What I remember most about her was that seriousness of purpose, great daring, cleverness, and, of course, her smarts. - Roberta Spurgeon '65
Donna Diers influenced me at a distance. I am not officially affiliated with YSN but Donna Diers inspired me to achieve more. I met her as a young CNS and her insights and presence help me see myself making a difference in the life of my patients through nursing science as well as practice. She will be missed. - Paula Meek
Donna was my doctoral supervisor through UTS in Sydney, she became a wonderful inspiration. Her work she did for us in New Zealand will never be forgotten, thank you Donna for all you did to keep nursing alive and well for generations. - Dr. Frances Hughes
I have never been to Yale ... but I knew and admired Donna Diers. My only face to face encounter with Donna came when I volunteered to drive her to the airport after her visit to the University of Pittsburgh to lecture on research. I wanted her advice on how to be a journal editor, a job I had just taken on with no experience in the role. I had long admired her work with Image and always looked forward to her editorials, (many of which I have saved.) I did not even know what to ask so she provided answers to questions that she thought I would have sooner or later. Her plane was delayed so we had a long conversation during which she convinced me that I was up to the task & would love and learn from the work. As her flight was announced she parted with "and you can always call me." She was true to her promise. I did call and she was generous with her time. Each encounter was memorable. I am so glad that she touched my life. I feel so fortunate to have know her. - Donna G. Nativio, Admirer
Intense advocate for professional nursing; committed to encourage, support, and assist colleagues in all projects and activities. Never stood in the limelight for persoal gain.Will be missed beyond measure. - Annalee R. Oakes, YSN Faculty
Donna was an amazing woman, articulate, funny, creative, and truly brilliant. She had a generosity of spirit, and was always striving to bring out the best in those whom she taught and with whom she worked. As both student and junior faculty I found that Donna knew us as individuals and never failed to acknowledge an unusual accomplishment. She gave us the opportunities of a lifetime. She was truly a mentor of mentors. - Lee Swearingen '80, YSN Faculty 1982-1993
I met Donna many years ago through Dean Florence Wald. We ultimately worked together on a special issues of a journal to which she contributed an article. I knew she was a very careful writer and this was demonstrated in her paper. For the few questions I had, it was stimulating to discuss with her the best way to convey the ideas she had. I so appreciated her attention to detail and the high standards that were evident in her work. What a privilege and pleasure it was to work with her. Donna Diers will be missed. - Inge B. Corless
I had the pleasure of working with Donna as a partner at YNHH and as a student. Her definition of Nursing was a central part to our Magnet work. She defined nursing as: "Nursing is two things: the care of the sick or potentially sick, and the tending of the entire environment within which care happens." This defines our vision of a YNHH professional nurse practicing to their full extent across a continuum of care. As a student, she pushed us to publish "where you make a dent in others thinking." She partnered with me to establish the Nursing Data Management Office ensuring nursing had a visible presence by making transparent the influence of Nursing on Quality through Nurse Sensitive Outcomes and Staffing benchmarking. Our work in creating the annual Joint YNHH and YSN Grand Rounds was modeled after her Master Class format and a brilliant mechanism of teaching/learning. The Donna Diers Award was presented this year to three recipents and she had crafted that criteria to ensure nurses or teams were recognized for their use of data in achieving quality outcomes for patient care. I will sorely miss her. - Diane Vorio '10, Associate Chief Nurse YNHH
Donna was truly an inspirational leader. Her passion for the science of nursing was so contagious that she was able to light the fire of clinical inquiry in all of us. Yet, in spite of this, she never let us forget that nursing is also an art as we care for our patients in navigating the human experience. Donna empowered all of us to challenge the status quo where necessary to advance the well being of others and to lead by example. Most of all, she helped give us the tools and confidence to make a difference in peoples' lives. Thank you Donna for all that you have given us. - Helene M. Vartelas '84
Donna was my adviser during my years at Yale as an NMPL student. Every month I looked forward to our short “check-up” conversations. I remember after finishing one difficult semester, I told her that there were many instances when I just had to laugh. It was all I can do to get through. At the end of the conversation, I asked her if she would sign my copy of her book --Speaking of Nursing, which she in turn signed “To Yale, to Nursing and to your good sense of humor.” I loved her wit! She once described me to have a ‘penetrating intelligence that allowed (me) to see beyond the horizon.’ Her generosity meant the world to me! Her words resonated in my head every time I doubted myself or my perspective and allowed me to trust my work. She taught me to look at the nursing profession through a different point-of-view and in the process made me pursue my purposeful role in it. She made me want to be a better nurse and leader not only for my patients but for my profession. I am grateful for the wonderful opportunity to learn from a legend like Donna and I will always remember to pay it forward! - Carla Aquino '12
Donna was a Godsend to me in the School of Public Health. A first-year doctoral student who came to work with John Thompson in 1992, the year he died, I relied on Donna, who picked up the torch without a miute hesitation. She was honest, direct, and one of the most creative scholars I have met. A star. - Betsy Bradley, Faculty at YSPH
Visionary leader, eloquent writer, inspiring speaker, caring (and challenging) mentor, Donna made complex ideas seem obvious and compelling. She led us to so much of what we do and believe. As with many who are writing on this page, Donna inspired me, then saw the spark that she had lit, and guided me in building the foundation I needed for doing the work I love. In my office today, I am responding to students’ on-line comments for the NMPL course which I teach on evaluation of programs and policies. If Donna were here to talk to me about it, she would surely turn the conversation to some new and creative suggestion for enhancing the policy evaluation component. YSN students, faculty, and alums and colleagues (of the four winds) whom she taught and mentored, we are Donna’s legacy. Pass it on… - Jane Dixon, YSN Faculty
Donna Diers was a classmate, colleague,and special counselor during and after I graduated from Yale School of Nursing. Arriving at Yale in 1962 Donna graciously shared her "inside" information on Yale, and the community. She and I had classes together which we then discussed in depth in the student lounge or at the local restaurant, before or after classes. Most helpful during my positions after my Navy Nurse Corps.service was our discussions on leadership. She shared with me that leadership is a service. A service which helps others reach their goals. The second meaningful support and contribution was in my research on identifying patients acuity and severity of illness indices for developing staffing levels for the variety of nursing units from ICU,CCU levels to Acute Care and rehabilitation. We had many conversations and exchange of information during our years after my leaving Yale. She also commiserated with my encounters with intractable individuals while attempting to provide patient services. Several times, I particularly recall our discussing one physician, who was so oppositional that her wise advice was "stay quiet and let him come to you!" To my great surprise Donna was right on.That physician and I became very good friends. Those of us who knew and encountered Donna and worked with her,her consideration for alternative ways of viewing and assessing circumstances was a gift a precious gift, we will miss her. She is a gift from God. - Perry R. Mahaffy, Classmate & Member of YSN Advisory Board
I was first attracted to her sense of humor as she spoke at INANE meetings about my favorite subjects: writing and editing. Later when we were waiting for our flights back to our homes, we talked more about those topics and later became colleagues at JNS--called IMAGE in those days. She was a delightful addition to the world of nursing editors and will be greatly missed. - C. Estelle Beaumont
I first met Donna Diers in my dining room in Zepplenhein Germany, there she was with a bright smile looking out from a page of "The American Nurse". I was in the US Air Force far from home but most impressed with what she had to say. Little did I know years in the future, I would actually meet her. Not only meet her but come the YSN when she was Dean. Her encouragement and thoughtfulness certainly helped me be what I am today. We have lost a fine lady, who was a leader in the field when there were few that were leaders in Nursing. She was provocative and daring but always moving to understanding and conceptualiz the work of nursing and nurses. She had great gifts and she shared them generously. We shall miss you Donna. Your wisdom and thoughts are like seeds in the wind, we shall never know how far they travelled; where they took root or what fruit they will bring We do know that we are richer for knowing you and the world better for the gifts you gave us. - Linda Schwartz '84, Faculty 2000-2003
Dean and Professor Emeritus Diers,
- Carol A. ("Pat") Patsdaughter
I will always remember Donna Diers as the person who gave me my first opportunity to teach graduate students, and in so doing taught me how practical experience can inform historical understanding. I was a fourth-year graduate student in Medieval Studies at Yale when I met Donna through my wife, Mary Geary, who was completing her MSN in psychiatric nursing. I had long had an interest in the history of hospitals and nursing, but had never had the chance to discuss the complex political, institutional and gender history of hospital staffing with people who had actual experience with patient care. Some of Mary’s classmates went to Dean Diers with the request that I be allowed to teach a small seminar on the history of medieval nursing, and to our surprise and delight she readily agreed. The seminar was fascinating and I learned much more from these women than they did from me: Several had worked in rural Vietnam and other traditional societies in which conditions probably were closer to those in medieval Europe than in the urban environment of the US. The way that they read medieval sources through their experiences in public health, disease, and the social dimensions of healthcare as well as their first-hand experience of the political disequilibrium between primarily female health care delivers and male authorities forced me to rethink much of what I thought I knew not only about nursing but about life. I don’t know why Donna Diers decided to let her students select a young and inexperienced ABD to conduct a seminar, but I will be forever grateful to her. - Patrick Geary '74
When I reflect back on my memories of Dr. Diers, I remember my interview with her for the Yale DNP program. My initial reaction was one of awe, followed by fear, and quickly turning to intense admiration. I realized that by speaking with and being in the presence of Donna Diers that I was truly experiencing a Living Legend. Her contributions to our profession were vast, meaningful, and many. It seemed somewhat surreal as I realized that the enhanced acceptance of the role of the advanced practice nurse was a direct result of her policy advocacy on the state and national level. As a Family Nurse Practitioner, I owe so very much to her. On an academic level, Dr. Diers was my advisor. This was the ideal Professor-Student relationship. I was ecstatic with this arrangement; how could I ask for anything better? She would often say- "Please call me Donna." It was Donna who was responsible for transforming the unbalanced professor-student relationship into what I thought was the perfect balance of teacher and learner. She had so very much to offer and I had so very much to learn from her. Donna freely shared her experiences and insights when discussing several challenging professional issues. She would listen, ask questions for clarification, and then we would discuss the issue towards a resolution. There were many 'Ah ha' moments for me as she created the ideal learning environment. Even though it was a brief relationship, she demonstrated to me just how broad and deep many of her relationships with others over her career must have been. I felt privileged to have had the opportunity to learn from her myself. Donna was an exceptional person; she was a leader and a person who touched my life, as well as the lives of so many others throughout the world. She was my mentor and my role model. I will miss her. - Laura Whittaker, YSN Student
I had Donna for a teacher my first year for a significant portion of the research class. She was the most dynamic
Donna interviewed me for my application process towards acceptance to Yale. Although I will not have the privilege of having Donna as a professor, we have had many conversations and we the students have had many opportunities to hear about her experiences in our Brown Bag Seminars. She was many wonderful things and reached great places, but I will remember her always for her kindness. - Kristin Morin, YSN Student
It was such an honor to learn from this brilliant and articulate nurse leader while I was in my doctoral studies at Yale. But despite her undeniable high standing, she was so approachable and accessible to all of us - everyone benefited from her willingness to offer help when we needed it. I will cherish my memories of her forever and know that her writings will continue to guide us as a profession. - Christine (Ceccarelli) Schrauf, YSN '11
I was interviewed by Donna for entrance into the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program in 1973, she was warm, funny and truly endearing. I will never forget the strength she brought to all of us in the early years of this new specialty role for nurses. She was truly a visionary in advanced practice nursing and i will miss her enduring presence. - Susan Zekauskas Marple, YSN PNP '75
Research methodology and critical thinking were what I learned from Donna. I still use these skills daily although I retired from nursing many years ago. - Marilyn Yunek Steffan, YSN Alumnae '70
My first interaction with Donna Diers was an interview for the newly established brain child of hers, the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program. She found a way to be supportive but ask very probing questions all the while increasing my desire to be accepted into the program. I have since had the opportunity to read some of her work and have to say she is my hero. She has found a way to be scientific about the practice of nursing but yet retain that uniquely humanistic approach to not only nursing but how she lived her life. Her contributions were many. She has made the world a better place with each nurse, faculty member and patient that she touched. Tabut Ni (Thank you) Donna for inspiring all of us. - Chief Lynn Malerba, YSN Student
On behalf of the Diers family, I would like to thank the entire YSN community for your support and love of my dear aunt over the past difficult months. She was much comforted by your visits as both professionals and friends, and that was a comfort to we who loved her. Donna was a great educator, nurse, administrator, mentor and friend. She was also a loving aunt to me and my children. I think she is often remembered as the smartest person in the room, but I think of her as the most caring. Fundamentally, caring was her entre into nursing, the intellectual challenge was just the icing on the cake. Please feel her presence as you go forth to heal what ails people and systems, she loved you all. - Ted Diers, Donna's Nephew, Yale Forestry '93
My favorite contribution she made to the profession was her statement that "patients come to the hospital for nursing care"... I have used it many times in classes and to remind myself of why nureses must engage in health policy issues. - Jacqueline Dienemann
I am not a nurse but am honored to teach and learn from nurses at YSN. Donna Diers was my mentor in nursing education. It is hard to put into words what the experience of Donna was like -- her quick wit, her generosity to students and colleagues, her rigorous mind, her lively interest and encouragement, her great charm. She called us to our better selves in the most delightful way. - Nancy Berlinger, YSN Lecturer
I was fortunate to be interviewed by Donna for the inaugural DNP class in April 2012. When I learned that she would be one of my interviewers I was shocked and quite frankly, terrified. Over the course of the hour-long interview, she set my mind at ease with her quick wit and casual style. As you can imagine, her questions were not easy to address and she had done her homework. As I sat across from her, I realized she had a newspaper article printed and sitting on the top of my file. After a short time, she picked up the article and asked, "How could you use this [your experience] to prepare nurses to be leaders in health policy?" She was referring to a very public professional experience I endured several years prior which was the source of the article. It was a difficult question with a lengthy answer, but Donna was so poised, caring, and genuinely interested. Donna knew how to ask very pointed and relevant questions and she didn't have to ask many to get to the heart of the information she was seeking. I was admitted to the program and Donna became my DNP adviser. I am forever grateful for the few short months we shared getting to know each other, her mentorship and her genuine interest in my success at Yale. I will miss her tremendously. - Susanne J. Phillips, YSN Student
Donna was a singular nurse in possession of both common sense and uncommon grace. Words cannot express my gratitude for the way she modeled and taught the skills it took to be an advanced practice nurse. As a nurse educator, I can only hope that I will pass on a bit of the spark she inspired to me. - Susie Wilson '90
My first impressions of Donna were in my first year at YSN where she was dean and taught research. I was in awe in many ways, but what I am clear about is that I never would have been a scientist if it were not for her. Over the last 7 years, I have benefited from her extraordinary wisdom, mentorship, challenge to be better and commitment to make YSN all that it can be. And, I will cherish those handwritten notes, from the heart, expressing what was on her mind. While YSN will benefit forever from her work here, it will not be the same without her. - Margaret Grey '76, YSN Dean
Donna called us to industry, to justice, and to wisdom in our acts of caring for the sick and their environment. And she held the plumb line taut against our scholarly work, showing us, in her straightforward Wyomingan way, our deviations. Yet she frolicked on the jungle gyms of thought, and never discouraged adventures of ideas. Art, music, drama, movies, literature, opera--these were her life as much as data; and in her own scholarly work, these melded together in her exquisite, daring, and witty prose. She embodied the YSN tradition of philosopher-nurses: Goodrich and Henderson, even Dickoff and James. And now, she stands among them, perhaps greatest among them, in nursing's pantheon. This is how I will always remember Donna: Athena among us. - Mark Lazenby, YSN Alumnus and Faculty
Thank you, Yale School of Nursing, for sharing Donna with the rest of us for all of her working life (which I gather continued until the moment she passed on). Her years as editor of Image helped us think, nurtured our passions, and dignified our work by the elegance of her words. During my years at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, we were thrilled with every advanced practice nurse recruited from Yale. You saw that your students were educated to lead nursing and health care. They knew and loved nursing practice, and, what's more, they could write! Thank you, Donna, for inspiring me (though I was only a few years younger) with your courage, wisdom, and supremely elegant writing style. You were a gift to all of us who love nursing. Rest in peace. - Linda Cronenwett, an admirer
Donna Diers has been an international leader of innovation in nursing. I first met her in 1990 when she came to Australia to speak about DRGs. Over the years her energy, enthusiasm, curiosity and towering intellect have informed us time and again as nurse leaders in Australia. I am privileged to have had her input into professional nursing in Australia, proud to have called her my friend and colleague and passionately determined that she will not be forgotten in Australia. - Mary Chiarella
Many favorite memories of Donna- mining and drilling data; analyzing the significance of my time in grad school and her beaming when informing me Hilary was getting an honorary degree at commencement- all hich remind me of Donna's passion and commitment to nursing, learning and taking risks necessary to move forward. Thank you Donna for nurturing me as I continue to pursue the same values. - Betty Jenkins-Donahue '09
When I was a twenty-something graduate student, Dr. Diers taught me the meaning of "angle of view" in research. Using height as a metaphor, she brought me to the understanding that our research eye can be clouded by our perception. I recall this sweet moment of teaching to this day with a bittersweet smile. She was a master teacher and researcher. - Chandice Covington
I am so grateful the nursing community counted Donna among its scholars. Her writing was so articulate. She had the unique ability to inspire nurses with inside talk and share the magic of nursing with lay audiences. We were fortunate to have her articulate presence for so long. I will miss her intellect, her wit, and her advocacy. - Christopher Friese
Donna is one of the few people I know who shared a love of the English language with the same passion I do. I could never keep up with her but she always challenged me. She also encouraged me to write more prose. I will always remember her quick wit and incisive mind. I feel her loss personally and professionally. - Teri Stone Godena, YSN Faculty 1977-1981 and 2003-2013
Very caring and understanding dean. I will always remember her in respect to the students in general and me in particular. Thanks Donna! - Jim Spall '79
Donna Diers was a dragon slayer. A voice of reason, integrity, and humor; She never shied away from a good fight or a good story. I will miss her council and am sure I will hear her voice in my mind whenever faced with ethical dilemmas in the future. - Molly Ludwig, YSN Student
A maverick, a leader, a visionary who helped to bring nursing into the 21st century. - Joellen W. Hawkins
For starters, Donna interviewed me for admission to YSN in 1969; taught me in her nursing research course; allowed me to replicate hers and Angela McBrides pain study and to be a co-author when it was published. After graduation, I stayed in the clinical area as a clinical nurse specialist nourished by her words and love of nursing, and took nursing to Capitol Hill representing NOVA, Nurses Organization of Veterans, and its dedication to the care of veterans. Donna was a keynote speaker for NOVA members as well. Her words and love of nursing will remain with us. She taught and touched so many more than me, but each person will remember her. - Bette L. Davis '71
I am in shock and feel so sad about our loss of Donna: she had been a beacon for the Yale School of Nursing for so long. When I was in my 1st year of the PMHN program, I was a relative "youngin" from Calif. - had Donna not plucked me out after Statistics and Ns. Theory one day, took me to her corner office in the 2 story white building and simplified both stats and theory (what she really did was soothe my horrific anxiety,) I would not have passed "with high honors" and would not have had the experiences at Yale and at YSN that I remember so well. We share this loss, and important memories as a community. - Elizabeth Braun, YSN Alumnae
Donna was timeless. To me she will be forever young, arguing that impact is not a verb and that our belief in nursing should carry us over the narrow thoughts of those who would constrain the thoughts and actions of nurses and of women. I don’t think she ever knew how important her words were to me, as I had done my undergraduate work at Smith and in 1982 when I started at Yale most of my Smith colleagues thought I had sold out by choosing to pursue a traditionally women’s career. They have since changed their tune! I am working with newly graduated nurses now, helping them start their careers in home care. I was just thinking last week about how to help them hold on to what they believe about nursing as they confront a health care system that often constrains their ideas and practices. And so, I have decided to offer them what Donna offered me— I am giving each of them a copy of her 1984 Commencement Address and a copy of her Nursing as Metaphor, so that her words may continue to inspire, provide comfort, and help muster the courage to question, to challenge and to change our health care system so that it is more responsive to those in its care. How lucky we were to have been exposed to her brilliance, passion and courage. - Adele W. Pike '84
I celebrate Donna's wit, brilliance, and penchant for truth telling. She was a stunning scholar, and I always enjoyed reading her writing, and hearing her speak. - Patricia Benner, friend and visiting lecturer in the past
Donna -- not much older than I during my YSN student years 1967-'69 -- was my YPI clinical supervisor, and then my thesis advisor. She definitely held me hand, unhinged my mind, and encouraged me to soar. My fondest keepsake from those years is her enchalada recipe written in her own hand...the taste of those bubbling delights as well as her margaritas (long before any Mexican food came to New Haven) launched her Legend status! RIP, Donna. - Nancy Koehne Spring '69
Donna interviewed me when I applied to YSN in 1965 and was my thesis advisor! - Lois Kopp Daniels '67
Donna was simply brilliant. She helped shaped my world view about nursing and advancing health. Let there be light, she was light. Rest in peace my colleague and friend. - Courtney H. Lyder, Former Faculty
I took a class many years ago and if I hadn't already known, I would have never thought I was in the presence of an icon. Donna was laid back but profound at the same time. She got me to think deeply about the role of a nurse, having come to the field non-traditionally through the GEPN program. It will be hard to imagine YSN without her around. - Melissa Mokel '96
I was her first YSN doctoral student. Yes, the girl from Iowa, but mentored by Joanne Docterman and Doris Armstrong to pursue a meaningful doctorate. Some might say we were an odd match, the shy and brilliant professor and the extremely extroverted (and the not so brilliant, but smart) Maternal-child nursing administrator. Yet we were both passionate about Nursing and nurses using data for decision-making. She changed my life forever and for the better.
When I graduated with remarkable colleagues and now lifetime friends, Drs.Linda Juszczak, Susan Sullivan-Bolyai, and Suzanne Boyle, Donna's Dad was in hospice at the family home in Sheridan, Wyoming. Donna asked Margaret Grey (our very special mentor and Director of our doctoral program) to hood me at the ceremony. When Donna returned we donned our regale - her Aussie one with the funny hat and my YSN gown that Dean Emeritus Ruby Wilson (our friend and sponsor for classmate Wantana Limpkulpong from Thailand) said I should purchase and pranced (yes, pranced!!!) around YSN taking pictures together. The best picture is the one by her Dean picture on the wall of Deans, as a young Dean and standing by me, she had such a proud smile. That day she gave me a gift, a gold pin in the shape of a comma. Yes the punctuation mark.She always said I had comma's where they were not needed and where needed they were missing!! In the dainty custom made pin were several of her mother's diamonds and one blue sapphire for a "touch of Yale blue". She had it made this special pin for me and I think Suzanne has an exclamation point. I wear my precious pin whenever I need a boost of her confidence in speaking not like a "weather woman describing a murder" but an articulate and clear leader making a well-developed compelling point. The weatherwoman analogy was good coaching on her part and thankfully the weatherwoman in this instance is long gone.
I was so thankful Donna was able to meet the love of life, my husband, Andy Birmingham at her Living Legend party (in which she looked so beautiful and seemed to enjoy herself). Andy was able to tell her how much she had impacted my life and we both told her how much we loved staying at her Martha's Vineyard home (called Dodge) every August!!!
I was also thankful Donna was able to experience the power of Magnet Designation at YNHH with CNE, Sue Fitzsimons (on my dissertaion committee-- to help "get it done"). And work with her former master's student Lori Carson and Marianne Chulay on the unit-based research program. Thank you to Ed Halloran, Professor Emeritus, UNC for calling me Sunday to tell me this sad news. I know Donna would have wanted you and Di to do so.
As I have begun to cry again. I love you Donna. I will miss you. But I know you are in heaven organizing whatever data systems must be done or maybe making a Florence Nightingale miniature room (her friends too- Dr.Bernadette Forget (on my dissertation committee) and Pat Werner-Bender always had more money than I at the Sigma Silent Auctions). You made the YSN STT Silent Auctions so fun with all the Aussie things and your miniature room.
Hey, after 13 years after YSN graduation I am co-PI on a National Nurse Scheduling Study (NNSS)! In your Nursing Research book, you said, "If nurses don't do nursing research, no one else is going to do it for us; no one else can. It's our special pleasure privilege and obligation." (p.4) I think you always wanted students to "pay it forward" (not your words), but contribute to the care of patients and our profession that you would "do all over again" (Nursing Matters, YSN publication). This study I lead in your honor and passion for nursing leaders to better organize and use relevant local data.
I found your New England Journal of Medicine (July 14, 1983) editorial, Nursing as a Metaphor, co-authored with Claire Fagin last night with a yellow sticky note that it was Suzanne's favorite (Dr. Boyle) and she and I talked about it last night. I also spoke this morning with Dr. Roy Simpson (new DNP graduate!) this morning who knows Dr. Fagin well and will tell again how much everyone loved this editorial. Maybe it can be re-published??
Donna ---We do think of you, like Florence Nightingale----tough, canny, powerful, autonomous, and heroic. And also loving, private, funny, and deeply caring. We love you.
Peace and love to all Donna's friends, Sharon (Donna's first and very proud Doctoral student). - Dr. Sharon Eck Birmingham '99, Donna's First Doctoral Student
When Yale slowly became a coeducational institution, Mory's was a holdout, refusing to admit graduate women or women faculty members. Litigation ensued, which focused on the propriety of Mory's liquor license. Unable to operate without this license, Mory's agreed to admit women. Part of the settlement was that the Mory's board of directors would have to include three women. Donna and I were persuaded by President Brewster's emissary, Sam Chauncey, to take this responsibility on. For six years, we did so. Except for Donna's good sense and good cheer, it was not a lot of fun. Together, we accomplished our mission. I thought fondly of her when, a few years ago, I had lunch with a Yale grandson at Mory's, full of bright young men AND women. - Ellen Ash Peters, Faculty 1966-1984
Her brilliance, vision and creativity a given, what I remember most about Donna is the sly and approving smile she would flash your way when you did or said something that resonated with her. I was never more proud when that glimmer in her eyes was directed at me. - Caroline Dorsen '01
Donna was the first person to explain to me what nursing was all about. At a tipping point in my life she generously met with me, and by the end of our conversation I realized that nursing was my path forward. Like her colleagues, Virginia Henderson and Florence Wald, Donna displayed that wonderful combination of sharp intelligence, deep compassion, humility and a sense of humour that I associate with the heart of nursing. Her life truly made a difference. - David Whitehorn '85
Donna, a visionary that has influenced our profession and the Yale community forever. Our view of practice and research is unique and exceptional. Recently while presenting research to a group of magnet reviewers, they asked where I was from and when I said Yale they gave accolades to Yale education as clinicians and researchers. I thank Donna for this gift of knowledge. You will be missed. - Linda Norton '80 and YSN Faculty
Meeting Donna Diers in Sydney Australia changed the trajectory of my life and career in nursing, and for that I will be forever thankful. Donna loved Australia too and understood what it meant to leave an Australian summer to start a new American life in New Haven just after a December blizzard. I will always treasure Donna¹s mentorship and her ability to inspire those around her to push beyond the boundaries and barriers. Donna simply made great things happen and put her incredible vision for the profession of nursing into action. I often looked to her as the calm voice of reason and loved the way she put things into perspective. Donna had the rare gift of leaving people in a better state than when she found them. Donna¹s love for Yale was contagious and on those days when I miss the Pacific Ocean, the honor of being at YSN with someone as special as Donna Diers, somehow makes it all worthwhile. - Allison Shorten, YSN Faculty
A visionary with a wonderful way with words. Her contributions to science, our professional and out lives will live on forever. I still see research and practice in a unique way due to my Yale days, and influenced substantially by Donna. Be proud of all you have given us Donna and be at peace. Many blessings to you! - Linda Norton '80 and YSN Faculty
She was totally committed to improving the standards of excellence in nursing. She was so knowledgeable and
Teacher, thesis adviser, mentor, friend. Donna was the most articulate spokeswoman for Nursing that ever was! Her frankness, knowledge and humor kept us all going through the most difficult of times. Nursing has lost a giant. We have lost a soul-mate. - Maureen O'Keefe Doran '71
A true advocate. She was my thesis advisor. My topic was lesbian health care, specifically on how 'coming out' to health care providers influenced (mis)diagnosis. This was 1986-88 and not a mainstream YSN topic. Donna believed in me and was kind and supportive, and laughed me through it. She also assisted me with my first publication. She gave time and energy and took no credit. I was honored to be graced by her wise ways. - Laura Zeidenstein '88
I was a student when Donna was Dean. I returned 32 years later and Donna was still going strong. Donna saw the world and articulated her perceptions better than the rest of us. I enjoyed listening to her take on just about anything but especially professional issues. - Richard Jennings, YSN Alum and Faculty
Donna Diers Yale Nurse, Winter '91
"Nursing is two things. First, the nurse must care for the sick and help keep the healthy well. Second , the nurse must tend to the environment within which care occurs. This second mission presents the next frontier for nursing. This environment includes the values that underlie practice; decisions in public and private policy; and creating, monitoring, managing, and shaping of systems in which care is given."
This spoke to my being and I had a calligrapher print and frame it. Ever since it has hung in my office where I see it each day of practice. I had the opportunity to tell this to Donna.....She was mighty pleased! - Linda Demas '89
Donna was my research professor and was truly ahead of her time with the emphasis on policy and outcomes. She was such an inspiration and good friend and truly influnced my life and all she touched. She will be missed! - Kathy Lopez-Bushnell '72
There are lots of things about Donna that I loved and admired; most significant among them was that she was never about Donna -- always about others; nursing; standing up for good ideas; rolling up her sleeves and moving things forward. John Thompson once described her as "fearless". She really wasn't. She was as vulnerable as the next person, maybe more so; but she never let vulnerability get in the way of pursuing the next frontier of nursing with a vengence -- she was passionate, not fearless, and she taught a lot of us how passion can overcome fear and lead us to do the right thing, however difficult. She loved Yale and this was the right place for her. By her own description she came to Yale as a shy young woman from Wyoming. That may be but she brought to Yale her extraordinary brilliance; creative genius; eye-opening notions about nursing; and the belief that this place, YSN, could and should change nursing's place in health care. She would tell you that context is everything. How lucky are we that YSN was her context? I'm going to miss her terribly but after all these years of tending to us and to nursing, she deserves to rest. - Judy Krauss, YSN Faculty
Donna was accessible and available to students. I recall being impressed that as Dean, Donna also provided lectures in our research classes. I am sad to learn of this loss. - Ruth Churley-Strom, YSN Alumna
Donna was all about professionalism and nursing and stewarding the next generation to embrace our past history and blaze forward to make a difference. I have 2 strong memories of her: First, besides her teaching the 'Uses of Data' course, she came to our philosophy & theory course first semester of our DNSc program. I was not a big fan of 'theory' up until that point (mostly because I didn't understand the historical nursing perspective and how it could inform my future research). Donna came in and gave the most visually brilliant description of the early days at YSN and theory development with Virginia Henderson, Ernestine Wiedenbach, James Dickoff & Patricia James, Florence Wald, Robert Leonard etc. (talk about interdisciplinary!!)!! Donna was a young faculty member who obviously had a great creative mind and was invited to participate in the 'sherry discussions' with the outcomes eloquently documented in many of the readings in Nicholl's Perspectives on Nursing Theory. It all came together for me because Donna was able to present the history within the context of the present. What a fabulous gift to be able to do that for students.
My other great memory of her was her generosity in sharing her perspectives. Several years ago she drove up to UMass Worcester (where I teach/conduct research) with Florence Wald to present to our masters and PhD students on nursing, practice and research. Again, she mesmerized everyone (as did Florence!) with her perspective on why we were all in this profession and the myriad of opportunities we have to improve clinical outcomes for our patients and their families based on evidence vs. tradition; it was like watching a church revival with many students and faculty coming away incredibly inspired. Donna and Florence graciously stayed well beyond their planned time to talk with our students and faculty. None of us will ever forget it.
Her Nursing Research text (now out of print) read like she spoke, taking complex concepts and making them clear with vivid decriptive illustations. I copied every chapter and still use her examples to make these same concepts easier to understand. What a brilliant mind, quick dry wit, and forward-thinking woman, I am so grateful that my time at Yale included the influence of Donna Diers. She will be greatly missed but her legacy will live on in all of us who had the honor of crossing paths with her. - Susan Sullivan-Bolyai '99, '02
I was in the second class of the "Three-Year Program" as GEPN was then called. The School of Nursing was still located in a former Catholic elementary school building, and one of my fondest memories is having sherry in the gym on Friday afternoons with the Dean! First, I'd never had sherry before my arival at Yale, and certainly never in a gymnasium with the dean of an ivy-league school! Not only was Donna a genius, she was Western-nice and not at all intimidating to us neophytes to nursing. Her legacy lives on in all of us other proud sons and daughters of Yale who were privileged to learn under her expert tutelage. You betcha! - Nancy Kraus '78
To me, Donna Diers was a genius, and a very kind lady. She welcomed me to YSN over 30 years ago (when fresh out of my Master’s program), and since then I rarely missed an opportunity to hear her speak. She fully understood the work of nursing in all of its forms, and she continually encouraged all of us to broaden our own understanding of that work so that we might better assess its impact. Beyond nursing, Donna was an advocate and scholar of the arts and humanities.....of history, music, literature and the spoken and written word. I will miss her immensely. - Martha Swartz, YSN Faculty
Professor Donna Diers has influenced the work I do on daily basis. Her believe in Advanced Practice nursing and policy has made me the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner I am today. Her work and seeds she has planted will continue grow. - Anne Kiwanuka '93
Donna was a true living legend. Whether it was whistleblowing nurses or other public policy issues of note, Donna was always digging into the details and asking what we could do to bring these issues to light in order to help advance the practice of nursing. It was a tremendous honor to know Donna and, also, a privilege to learn from her. There is a hole in my heart which will never be filled with her absence. Yet Donna had such a profound effect on me and other students, I know her legacy will live on in the memories of those whom she taught and mentored. - Elizabeth Leary, YSN Student
Donna gave so many of us our wings and pushed us out of the nest (not always gently). Her confidence in our abilities and enthusiasm for our work bore us aloft. - Ann Williams '81 and YSN Faculty
I will be forever grateful to Donna Diers for her role in creating the GEPN program, for her scholarship, for her intellect, and for revealing in and essay in AJN in 2008 "Hair care has always escaped me". She was smart, funny, down to earth and an excellent advocate for nurses and patient care. Gone too soon. My condolences to her loved ones. - Sandra K. Peccerillo '96
Donna is one of those strong, intelligent and creative women whose memory I keep in the back of my mind as a role model. She was the head of the program while I was at Yale and just knowing she was steering the ship was comforting - not comforting from a sense of stability/complacency but because of the sense of possibility. Her forward thinking, unfancy style, just do it attitude was very much how I saw my experience at Yale in the day; and pretty much how I have tried to conduct myself as an NP for the past 30 years. I am very sorry to hear of her passing. - Amy Hecht '82
Who better to teach me Nursing Research than Donna. Such a loss to the nursing world. I loved her sense of humor and her masterful intelligence. She and I had a long list of "tall stories" we shared....that is, odd and funny things that had happened to us as tall women in a land of shorter people. I have a fond remembrance of Donna taking me, Linda Goodhart, Vicky Wirth, Sen Lin Speroff, Tina Burke, Betsy Foster Meredith (all nurse midwifery students in 1976) to Morey's for lunch. As I remember she was one of the first female members of the club. - Brenda S. Penner '76
My colleague Margy Hutchison and I were incredibly fortunate to have Donna Diers as our thesis chair. Her electric intelligence, subtle steering, and supportive mentoring were wonderful to experience firsthand as a student. Donna always conveyed maximum analysis with minimal verbiage and effort. The depth of her contributions to nursing, health care and health policy nationally and internationally is so substantial that we would like to think it will somehow outweigh her loss; but none of us really believe that. We have lost a rare leader. - Ann Kurth '90
Donna Diers said in her research class I attended that "Nursing education, services and researchs should be collaborated and contributed it's results to improve each other toward the health of nurses' clients" which I never forget. I have had repeated her phase to my nursing students and colleages many times. - Poolsook (Posyasvin) Sriyaporn '73
When I was teaching at SCSU and using one of Donna's books for a leadership & policy class, I asked the students if they would like to meet Donna. I invited her to class but she suggested we go to Mory's for dinner, which we did. The students were awed and I was reminded of what an incredible woman and leader Donna was in nursing and at Yale where she was instrumental in breaking the gender barrier at Mory's! I will miss her incredible sense of humor and intelligence. I am grateful for having my professional life enriched by knowing her. - Shirley Girouard '77
- Beth Strutzel '68, Faculty 1970-1974
The world of nursing lost an icon, but I am currently thinking purely selfishly. I lost one of my greatest mentors, and an easy great first lecturer to spanking new GEPNs to talk about “What is nursing?” It is a rare gift to provide someone with unvarnished criticism and still feel cared for. Donna in fact nursed me. She nursed my feeble mind always wanting me to dig deeper, “to raise the level here. And get to something to aspire to, Linda”. She nourished my writing, with editing that included tons of “Huh?” “Beef this section up”…. She’d tell me when I “looked exhausted”, and told me when to “calm down” and equally “rev up”. She protected me, she was and always will be what I believe Yale Nursing stands for- bravery, integrity, selflessness- and she was always about the next generation of Yale Nurses. I know I do not have her brilliance, or her wordsmithing ability, or her depth and breadth of knowledge but she is in me, and I will forever be grateful for the gift of Donna Diers in my life. I was blessed. And if she was reading this, she would tell me to “tighten it up”…. - Linda Honan Pellico, YSN Faculty
Donna was my Dean. She was always available to students and always challenged you to be your absolute best. She has been the most eloquent spokesperson for the profession of nursing. Her focus on the nurse experience is legendary. Thank you; we will miss you, Donna. - Luc R. Pelletier '82
Donna was my thesis advisor and it was she who guided me in understanding how nurses can shape and inform health policy. I had struggled with the "essence" of my thesis, which described the program goals and objectives of adult day centers throughout Connecticut. Donna was kind, patient, and knowledgeable as she guided my initial journey into the development of policies and service delivery models which truly put the client first. She inspired and motivated. She was a national treasure. - Kathryn Barrett '86
Donna was the backbone and centralizing figure at YSN. She was so very humble yet so brilliant and I will always remember her as a huge support during my nursing school journey. I will miss her as will so many others. - Susan Wood '81
I met with Donna while I was still trying to figure out my thesis topic. She was intelligent, willing to work with a neophyte and able to provide clear information. I appreciated her sense of humor and her ability to make complex topics clear. She truly was a Living Legend in so many ways for the profession of nursing. I would have liked to have had the opportunity to work with her in other ways after school. She was passionate about the profession. Thankfully, her legacy lives on. Rest in Peace, Dr. Diers. - Norma McNair '85
As a YSN Nursing Management and Policy student, I took some of her classes. Her lectures were so inspiring ... I am so grateful and proud that I got to know her! - Nami Ahn Volpintesta (Crystal Nami Ahn) '96
Donna was ours and she was everyone's. She walked quietly among us, hair askew, with her long slow stride - never in a hurry but always in the lead. Few can claim a life's work as full and meaningful as hers. But we loved her for her time and attention. Her brilliance made us feel ours. Learning was her play. She could mine through the most tedious data for the most delightful facts. Only Donna Diers knew that there was an ICD-9 code for being run over by a space ship. What luck to have been in her company if only for a while. - Moira O'Neill '98, '11
Donna and I were very good friends while graduate students at YSN. We watched "Man From Uncle" every week on TV and read Ian Fleming's 007 series. And of course there were more serious concerns we shared about nursing. I ushered her parents at her graduation and for many years we remained in frequent contact. She was responsible for my nomination to the MGH Institute of Health Profession where I established the graduate program on the Yale model. I regret that over the years we stayed in touch less and less; distance and time took its toll. I am saddened to learn of her deathAs a friend and a colleague, I will miss her. - Roz Ruggiero Elms Sutherland '63
I was honored to have Donna Diers as my faculty advisor during my years in the Community Health Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner program at YSN. It was she who looked me in the eye after reading a draft of one my papers on the legal rights of patients and said, "You think about the law, you research it, you write about it. Why the heck don't you go to LAW SCHOOL?"
"What? No! I'm just finishing up this MSN! I couldn't. Could I?" I asked.
And I did, graduating from the Yale Law School three years later.
I have been forever grateful for her straight talk and optimism, and seeing something in me I had not yet even allowed myself to imagine. I was so fortunate to be one of her students. - Donna Haggarty-Robbins YSN '83, YLS '86
Donna opened my eyes to the great possibilities of nursing research as I began my doctoral studies in anthropology, 1971. Her mind was always stretching, reaching far beyond any contemporaries. It was always a reminder of how a focused, resourceful, scholarly mind could work. She left a pathway for all to follow. Thanks and blessings, dear Donna. - Jody Glittenberg, American Academy of Nursing
The school was small and intimate when I was there (1982-84) and Dean Diers was visible everywhere. She was a role model and mentor; I felt her leadership around every corner of the Grace building. I am a proud YSN alumnae and will always remember Dean Diers and her role in my development as an advanced practice nurse. - Patty E. Harris '84
I have known Donna for more than a half century. We were YSN classmates, both completing our MSN in Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing in 1964, and both staying on to teach at our alma mater. There was even a time when we shared an office. My impression of Donna over the years has become richer, but not substantially different than when we watched the original Star Trek series together (both having a fondness for science fiction). She had a brilliant analytic mind, a creative bent, and a way with words that was the envy of all who knew her. She cared deeply for the wellbeing of patients and for YSN, and was always values driven. I will miss her so much. Even though we didn't see each other that much over the years, I always thought our profession was in better shape because she was thinking about the issues of the day. - Angela Barron McBride '64
While I was in school, I really didn't realize just how amazing Donna Diers was. She taught via the Socratic Method, which sometimes was puzzling as we tried to work out just where we were supposed to be going. She would not give us the answers--she made us work out the logic ourselves--which resulted in a much deeper level of learning. Her classes on research methodology were so cutting-edge, there was no book--just a collection of articles and writings. And discussions on nursing policy could set the room on fire! It wasn't until I was out in practice, and starting to take continuing education courses, that I realized that everything being taught for continuing education having to do with policy was "old information" for anyone who had been in Donna's classes. She gave me the background to think critically about research and to use that information well when trying to change the system. The tools she gave me have helped me be successful in so many ways in the best profession I can imagine! Her influence will be felt by generations of nurses--she will be missed greatly. - Jennifer (Dening) Wiseman '93
I loved Donna Diers' mind. She was truly a brilliant nurse. I always looked forward to the classes that I had with Donna. The reading requirement was generous, but rich. I never minded the load and always found it fascinating. Donna exhibited qualities of compassion, historical knowledge, political savvy, integrity, and a passion for the advanced practice role. Donna also had a passion and an appreciation for the nursing exemplar...the stories that needed to be told. I am so sorry to hear of Donna's passing...The world has lost a true patient advocate, an authentic scholar, and a giant among nurses. - Lynn Pittsinger '98
Donna was a consummate professional, a mentor to many advanced practice nurses and a honor to have as a colleague and friend. - Rosanne Harrigan
The day Donna was named Dean, she called me and said, "Guess what? We have a new Dean!" Excitedly, I asked who. "Me,' she replied. "Now will you stay on as faculty?" That began a wonderful time for me, as the nurse midwifery program grew, we received what was then a major grant, and the decision was made to expand the program. From her course, 'Psych in Literature', which I enjoyed so much I took twice as a student, to the development of the Fair Haven clinic nurse midwifery component, Donna was a spirited, wise and compassionate leader. She understood the changing arena of advanced clinical practice and supported young faculty as they sought to expand their roles. - Charlotte Houde Quimby '72
I'm so saddened to hear of Donna's death and feel very lucky to have known her. When Donna was recognized by AAN as a Living Legend I took the opportunity to share with her my memories of her impact on me as a student. She was my thesis adviser when I was getting my MPH in the School of Public Health (then EPH) prior to entering nursing. This is the email I sent her in 2010:
I just read about you being designated as one of AAN's Living Legends and wanted to offer my congratulations. I was a student at EPH and YSN from 1996-2001 and you made a big impact on my life and career. I have always thought of you as a living legend, but it's nice to see it endorsed by the Academy. I was just talking about you the other day with one of my research advisers and was saying that it was your course on clinical and financial data management (in 1997 I think) that turned me on to how much fun secondary data analysis could be! I also remember a day in your office while I was a student at EPH and we were discussing my future plans. I was considering either medical school or nursing and you said you thought I'd make a terrific nurse. That meant a lot to me and helped tip the balance in the direction of nursing, a decision I am so very thankful to have made. I'm now in NYU's PhD Nursing program (with Deb Chyun and Gail Melkus) and starting some research on palliative care using Medicare data that will likely lead to my dissertation work. So, congratulations and thanks again!
- Jay Horton '01
One of a kind. She will be missed is an understatement. - Katrien Derycke-Chapman
I am so saddened that Donna has left us. She has been a part of my professional life and memory for so long. She gave me my first joy of learning nursing research and helped make statistics less daunting. I remember entering YSN as she was becoming Dean and being in awe of how smart she was and oh, so funny. While serving on the YSN Alumni Board I remember her bailing us out of a potentially embarassing situation, not once, but twice, with her sensitivity to people and strength under pressure. Listening to her speak was inspirational, no matter the topic. Nursing has lost one of their best and I for one will miss her. - Dottie Needham '74, '01
One of the things I'll always remember is Donna's final "master class." It's the only time I had (or probably will ever have) champagne in the setting of a classroom! The stated purpose of the class session, according to Donna, was to convey that we were now "the masters." I thought that was a generous proposition, given that she was in the room. I'll always remember what she said to me on that day in spring 2011: "Melissa, you have a backbone of steel and those who care about you enough will see it." She doesn't know how much those words have kept me going on days when I have felt small, insignificant, and even helpless to change things in the world of health care. I do hope that as students we let Donna know, even in some small way, that she is a "master" we will never forget. - Melissa Kurtz '11
Donna Diers' policy class was one of the very best I took at YSN. She was so smart, so articulate, so feminist. There have been moments since I left YSN (almost 23 years ago now!) when I have found myself thinking: what would Donna Diers do in his situation She was one of my personal heroes. - Maggie Orr '90
Donna was my thesis advisor, and I remember her warmth, her encouragement, her open-ness, and her friendliness. With Donna I never ever felt even remotely talked down to, in spite of all my ignorance. She somehow could see past it...could see talents and skills I didn't know I had. She seemed to address herself to the better part of me, and by doing so, helped it step out of the shadows. Thank you Donna for giving so much to life and to love. - Doug Brown '87
In early 1974 I read an article by Dean Diers in the Yale Alumni magazine about Pediatric nurse Practitioners. I had just left college with a semester to go as a Biology major/ German minor. I was working in a job I hated having just returned from study in Germany because my father was dying of cancer, but had no idea what I really wanted to do. At this point I had no desire or inkling to be an RN. After reading that article I knew what I was going to be!! I went right down to the diploma program at the medical center that cared for my father, told them my plans and was enrolled. Six years later I became a student at Yale School of Nursing (had to finish a BA degree) where I received an excellent education for a profession I still love. All because of Dean Diers article! - Veronica Kane '83
A prolific writer and researcher with a great sense of humor. - Eileen Sherburne '83
Dean Donna Diers (DDD as we sometimes called her) was my first real academic role model, since my position at Yale began when I was fresh out of graduate school. She was a remarkable woman in so many ways, but the mark she left on me was the meaning of what it meant to be in an academic community. She took that responsibility so seriously that it was impossible not to feel the weight of the opportunity to teach others well, and to live up to the expectations of the people who entrusted their care to us. After I left Yale and took a teaching position at another university, I was struck with the value of what I had learned during those formative years and I wrote Donna a letter of gratitude for what she had taught me. I still treasure the letter she wrote back to me in her lovely script, thanking me for the unexpected note of appreciation and it's underlying "I really get it now" message. I am saddened at news of her loss, but gratified that I knew her at all. - Carol Wood, YSN Faculty 1977-1986
From my student days in the late 70's I had the honor of having Donna as my Dean. She was always so eloquent that she made me feel proud to be a nurse and a especially a YSN nurse. She had an incredible mind and was generous in her use of her inteligence to promote the science of nursing. Her "betchas" will be sorely missed, but her legacy will endure for generations of nurses and for the YSN community. - Heather Dawn Reynolds, YSN Alum and Faculty
When I entered the program Donna started in 1974, it wasn't called GEPN. "Non-nurse college graduates" was a term bandied about. We refused to wear caps, and I think Donna was mildly amused. Some faculty were irritated at teaching mature students who knew nothing about nursing,and Donna was not amused. Some of the new students could be aggravating, me included, and Donna took the long view. She was an inspiring leader and thinker, and how sad that she is gone. I am so grateful that she enacted many of her bright ideas, and that she started me on the life work I love. - Debbie Ward '77
I am thankful for having the opportunity to have worked with Donna. She was a scholar with a wealth of information to share and had passion that is rarely seen. Yale has suffered a great loss. Rest in peace. - Mary Ann Fuentes Marshak, YSN Staff
Donna was a colleague, role model and a friend. Her contributions to the profession, to advanced practice nursing, and to leadership development are significant. Her legacy is a long list of "to-do's" - we have our work cut out for us. Thank you, Donna. - Judy Kunisch, YSN Faculty
It’s well known that Donna wanted to push envelopes, to do things differently. She was always in touch when there was something new she wanted to know about or learn how to do, which often meant I had something new to learn as well. Her tenacity will always be an inspiration to me. - Janene Batten, YSN Librarian
Just 2 months ago, while she was still recovering after being hospitalized, she opted to deliver a talk to the YSN DNP class via Skype to guide us about our Capstone project. I can't imagine that for a woman who was recently discharged from the hospital and still recovering would gather all her strength and wit to share more of her knowledge to us. I have never seen such a selfless individual in my life. She is not only a legend but a hero. - Jasper Tolarba, YSN Student
Two months ago, when Donna taught us as she was still recovering from being hospitalized - giving astute individual Capstone project feedback to the DNP students - we were all astounded. Not only by her sheer fortitude, her will to fight, her resolve to teach, but her presence itself was so potent that when the session was over we all sat in silence for a long moment. We had just heard a true legend, and we knew it. We all felt the honor of her advice and involvement, and in particular her raw determination. And it was powerful. - Eliana M Aaron, YSN Student