Fortis College’s Sara Rich Wheeler, Ph.D., RN, PMHCNS-BC, LCPC, was honored with a 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award from Indiana State University. Wheeler is national dean of nursing for academic affairs and regional dean of nursing for the nursing division at Fortis, a national healthcare career training provider.
The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes graduates who have made significant contributions to their community, state, or nation while maintaining an ongoing connection with the university. Dr. Wheeler was among four ISU graduates selected for the award this year by the Indiana State University Alumni Association. She was honored at a Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony on Oct. 4, and was spotlighted the following day during the annual Blue and White parade and at halftime of the ISU football homecoming game.
“Wherever I have been, I always tried to make a difference, whether providing direct nursing care or through the education of others,” Dr. Wheeler said. “Indiana State University helped shape my nursing career. My education there taught me what it means to be passionate about making your dreams come true. Being passionate and wanting to make a difference requires a lot of hard work and dedication; however, you don’t mind the hard work, especially when you see the difference you have made.”
National dean of nursing for academic affairs at Fortis since April 2012, Dr. Wheeler is co-founder of Resolve through Sharing, a program for families that have experienced loss through miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death, and has conducted groundbreaking research into the responses and needs of women of all ages who experience an early pregnancy loss. Dr. Wheeler, is a co-author of When a Baby Dies: A Handbook For Healing and Helping and Goodbye My Child. She has been involved in the education of nurses – from practical nurses to nurses pursuing a doctoral degree – for 33 years. Over that period, she also researched the impact of test anxiety on nursing student success.
During 43 years as a professional nurse, Dr. Wheeler has worked as a staff nurse, clinical nurse specialist, and nurse educator. While working in Wisconsin in 1982, she developed an education and support network for health care professionals who provided care to childbearing families for which she received the March of Dimes Maternal Nurse of the Year Award.
Dr. Wheeler earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Indiana State University and her master’s and doctorate degrees from the Indiana University School of Nursing. Prior to joining Fortis, she was professor and dean of nursing at Lakeview College of Nursing in Danville and Charleston, Ill., and previously served on the teaching staffs of the University of Illinois’ Department of Maternal Child Health, University of Wyoming, Indiana University, Boston University Schools of Nursing, Indiana State University, and Parkland College.
In addition to Dr. Wheeler, the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients included Craig McKee, an attorney and federal magistrate judge; George Pillow, president and CEO of Pillow Logistics; and Danny Tanoos, superintendent of the Vigo County School Corporation. “These four individuals have excelled in their careers and we are delighted to have the opportunity to honor them with this prestigious award,” said ISU Alumni Association Director Rex Kendall.