Faye Gary, an indomitable nurse researcher and Case Western Reserve University faculty member, was quietly shocked when Provost Ben Vinson III announced she was the recipient of the institution’s highest faculty award, the permanent, honorific title of Distinguished University Professor.
Her first response? “Lord, have mercy. How could this be?”
It wasn’t a surprise to her colleagues and friends, who have witnessed Gary—a respected thought leader and researcher at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing—shape the field of psychiatric nursing. A fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, Gary has been widely published and received numerous grants totaling more than $24 million during her career. Her work has informed health policy related to child and adolescent mental health, health disparities and domestic violence.
In 1993, Gary’s clinical textbook, Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing, was named Book of the Year by the American Journal of Nursing. A competitive honor, the award acknowledges the importance of a book to nursing and its impact on shaping the practice of millions of registered nurses in the United States.
Her journey to Case Western Reserve wasn’t without obstacles. Gary, who earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing and sociology from Florida A&M University, shared one of her most devastating experiences while she pursued a graduate degree.
“I was accepted to a very prestigious school but then I was told I needed to interview,” she said. “Took me about two days on the bus—that was the way Black folk traveled—but when I got there, I was told my admission would be rescinded because I had never been in the classroom with white nurses.”
During his announcement, Vinson said Gary didn’t allow those hurdles to stop her.
“Faye, you have excelled in all of the areas that we deem and treasure as fundamental to the university, and that is research, scholarship, teaching and service,” he said. “You are a model of the transformative citizen leader that we aspire to cultivate here at Case Western Reserve.”
When nominating Gary—the Medical Mutual of Ohio and Kent W. Clapp Endowed Chair and Professor of Nursing—for the Distinguished University Professor designation, Dean Carol M. Musil cited her excellence in research, scholarship and impact on the university community.
In 2013, with the support of former Provost William “Bud” Baeslack, Gary established the Provost Scholars Program, a partnership between East Cleveland City Schools and Case Western Reserve to create opportunities for the city’s students to become successful undergraduates at the university.
“This groundbreaking program reflects Dr. Gary’s vision, expertise, and commitment to dismantling systems that promote economic and health disparities,” Musil wrote in her nomination. “Her ability to leverage community resources to help vulnerable youth positively shape their futures has had, and continues to have, positive effects on the university and East Cleveland Communities.”
When receiving the honor, Gary thanked Vinson, Musil and her colleagues, and said her work reflects her experiences and the vision and connections she’s formed at the university.
“I thank you for bringing me peace and acknowledging me in a way that is beyond my dreams,” she said. “I’m awfully grateful.”