Weaving a Legacy

Donor Greenleaf

Dr. Nancy P. Greenleaf

Weaving a Legacy

Nurse. Union organizer. Educator. Weaver. Writer. Dr. Nancy P. Greenleaf has played many different roles in her lifetime. Now add "USM Donor."

Nancy's association with the University of Southern Maine began shortly after she arrived in Maine with a newly minted doctorate in nursing science from Boston University. She hadn't planned to become an educator, but circumstances got in the way.

As a young RN, Nancy decided to return to school for a baccalaureate degree and then a master's in psychiatric nursing. This led to jobs in Boston-area hospitals and a growing desire to elevate the essential and under-appreciated role of nurses.

"Nurses have been called the housewives of the medical system," explains Nancy, who became actively involved in helping organize a nurses union. "I couldn't get a job after that, so I made what I call a ‘lateral arabesque'." She headed back to BU for her doctorate and a future in nursing education.

Just two years after moving to Maine and joining the USM faculty, Nancy--one of the few faculty members with a doctorate--was asked to become the interim Dean of the School of Nursing. A national search led to her appointment as Dean and she served for five years from 1984 through 1989.

When she began her tenure, the USM nursing program had been extended to university campuses at Orono and Fort Kent. "I was the Czar of Nursing," jokes Nancy, who for a time oversaw faculties on three campuses. Under her leadership, the system was reorganized so that individual programs could be established at each school.

As Dean, Nancy guided the initial accreditation by the National League for Nursing of a new USM Master's in Nursing program. She was instrumental in the early planning for the program--one of only a few in the country designed for students with undergraduate work in other disciplines.

Nancy saw many lives transformed at USM. "I had enormous respect for the nursing students who were entering the field later in life." Often these students were juggling school, families and jobs. They are part of the reason Nancy feels so strongly about the need to support USM. She calls them "heroes."

By 1989, with the successful accreditation of the new master's program, Nancy was ready for another "lateral arabesque." She decided to retire from USM. "We lived on an organic farm and had angora goats, so I learned to spin and weave the mohair yarns." Thus began a notable second career in fiber arts.

In 2005, out of gratitude for USM and the opportunities it provides, Nancy decided to establish a charitable gift annuity, which offers tax advantages and pays her a fixed income for life. "The charitable gift annuity worked so well, that a few years later I decided to set up another one for my younger sister, Betsy." The remainder of both annuities will be directed to the University of Southern Maine Foundation to create the Dr. Nancy P. Greenleaf Fund.

During her tenure at USM, Nancy learned that unrestricted gifts were critical to the ongoing mission of the University. For this reason, she has not restricted her fund to a particular purpose but chosen to support projects or initiatives at USM wherever the need is greatest. Recently, she has pledged a Dean's Scholarship, a four-year commitment to provide support for students in USM's College of Science, Technology and Health.

Today, Dr. Nancy Greenleaf is beginning to weave less and write more. In addition to a family memoir, she hopes to someday contribute to the history of healthcare with a book about the early days of nursing education. Given her energy and passion, there's no doubt she will accomplish her goal.


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