Retiring Gateway president lauded at 15th Nursing Program ceremony in New Haven

NEW HAVEN >> When Dorsey L. Kendrick began her tenure as president of Gateway Community College back in 1999, there was no nursing program there.

So if there were a few misty eyes all the way around as Kendrick, who is retiring effective June 30, watched the latest 93 of the 878 nurses Gateway has graduated since then at her 15th and last Gateway Nursing Program pinning ceremony Tuesday evening, so be it.

But all in all, it was a pretty happy occasion for all concerned.

“This evening we celebrate 93 new” graduates who are “joining the ranks of registered nurses,” Kendrick told several rows of graduates, all clad in white scrubs, arrayed in the seats in front of her in the College Street Music Hall — many of them with wrapped flowers on the floors in front of them.

“Congratulations to all of you!” Kendrick said, speaking at a lectern not far from a sign on an easel that read, “Thank you Dr. Kendrick for your tireless commitment to the Nursing Program.”

She challenged them to always use their resources to help others.

One of the graduates in front of her, Nicole Bowers, offered congratulations back to Kendrick on behalf of her classmates.

“We are grateful, and wish you all the best as you leave your indelible legacy on Gateway Community College, its nursing programs, the students it serves and the community as a whole,” Bowers told Kendrick during the student address.

“Just think, you have 15 years of Nursing Program graduates to provide top quality care should you ever need it,” she said, eliciting applause and some laughter.

Bowers actually played a dual role.

She gave the student address — delivered in proper nursing school “SBAR” (Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation) format — and also was one of several students honored with leadership awards. The awards were presented by Sheila Solernou, Gateway’s division director for Allied Health & Nursing.

“Thank you to our family and friends that stood by us,” Bowers said. “Without your sacrifice, support and encouragement over the last two years, we might not be sitting here tonight.

“To my fellow classmates, my study buddies, my friends, congratulations again!” she said, telling them, “If you can make it through this, you can do anything.”

Ena Williams, interim chief nursing officer at Yale New Haven Hospital, told the graduates that “when I think of aspiring to be something or aspiring to achieve something,” Kendrick “is one of the people I think about. ... So we honor her today for her dedicated service.”

She pointed out that Yale New Haven “has hired more than 250 nurses from Gateway” over the years.”

She challenged the graduates “to give back” as they find their places in the nursing world.

“Never let anyone ... tell you you cannot,” she said. “Your life is yours to decide.”

Keynote speaker Linda Nevins, a registered nurse who has taught in the Gateway program since it began, and has done so full-time since 2009, congratulated all the graduates, who earned associate degrees. She told them, “now the only thing left is the bachelor’s degree, the master’s degree and the doctorate. Piece of cake!”

Nevins, who was chosen to speak by the students, thanked Kendrick, “who has believed in us” for the past 15 years.

Gateway Dean of Academic Affairs Mark Kosinski asked the graduates to think about all the various choices they each had to make in order to get through the rigorous, two-year program, including their sacrifices with their families and in their jobs.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the date of GCC President Dorsey Kendrick’s retirement to June 30.