Headshot of Marian Shaughnessy

Remembering Marian Shaughnessy, double alumna, visionary and benefactor of Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing leadership academy that bears her name

From her own experience as a nurse, spanning bedside to boardroom, Marian Shaughnessy  saw firsthand how nurses could help reform and redesign health care to make treating people more patient-centered, cost-effective and accessible—if empowered to do so.

Marian Shaughnessy

It was while completing her Doctor of Nursing Practice, under the direction of Joyce Fitzpatrick at Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, that Shaughnessy developed an idea for a nurse-leadership academy to develop and support a new generation of leaders in the profession.

And in June 2018, a $5 million gift from Shaughnessy and her husband, Michael, created the Marian K. Shaughnessy Nurse Leadership Academy at the School of Nursing. “My vision,” Marian Shaughnessy told a nursing-school luncheon audience when plans for the academy were announced, “is to transform health care for all populations and to improve the nation’s health.”

The leadership academy that bears her name—offering promise for enhanced and innovative approaches to health care nationally and globally—becomes part of her legacy.     

Shaughnessy, an educator, administrator, community leader and double alumna of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, died Monday, Feb. 24.

“Marian’s passion for nursing and quality health care was evident in everything she said and did throughout her career,” said Fitzpatrick, the academy’s inaugural director, the Elizabeth Brooks Ford Professor of Nursing and dean of the nursing school from 1982-97. “Her dream was to make certain that nurses and nurse leaders were at the center, leading health-care delivery. We are committed to carrying out her dream through the work of the Marian K. Shaughnessy Nurse Leadership Academy.”

Shaughnessy, one of the nursing school’s most generous donors, earned a master’s and doctorate in nursing from Case Western Reserve and held positions as a practitioner, educator and administrator in critical care and perioperative-nursing care.

As a traveling nurse, she worked with indigenous populations in Colorado and Alaska and in several acute-care settings in Greater Cleveland. She served on the board of directors of University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and the board of trustees for the American Nurse Foundation.

But it was her concept for the leadership academy, which Shaughnessy once said originated in a “future of nursing” letter she wrote in 2013 for a class Fitzpatrick taught, that—in her view—could revolutionize the health-care system. From that, Shaughnessy and Fitzpatrick worked together over several years to develop her idea.

“Now, more than ever,” Shaughnessy wrote in that 2013 letter, “nurses must seize the opportunity to be, not just facilitators of health care, but rather leaders in their own right.”

More specifically, the academy prepares new nurse leaders to be involved in the design, planning, management and delivery of care, and in the development and implementation of health policy at all levels.

“Marian had extraordinary vision in creating a pathway for nurses to develop their capacity to lead,” said Carol Musil, dean of the nursing school and the Edward J. and Louise Mellen Professor of Nursing. “Her drive and passion have inspired Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing faculty, students and alumni—along with colleagues across the nation—to take lead roles in redesigning and reforming health care. The Marian K. Shaughnessy Nurse Leadership Academy will continue to make Marian’s dream of nurses as innovative leaders a reality.” 

Survivors include her husband, Michael Shaughnessy, the retired co-chair and president of ColorMatrix Corp., and their daughters Anne and Katherine. Michael Shaughnessy has served as a trustee or board member of Notre Dame College, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland and additional advisory boards.

The Shaughnessys had previously donated $1.25 million to establish an endowed chair for nursing education to create professional nursing development programs at University Hospitals of Cleveland.

The family requests that those who wish may make contributions in her name to the Marian K. Shaughnessy Nurse Leadership Academy at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44106. They can make donations online at: givecampus.com/campaigns/11896/donations/new.

A funeral mass will be held 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Church of St. Dominic, 19000 Van Aken Blvd., Shaker Heights.