As part of the celebration of its 120th anniversary, the VCU School of Nursing recognized alumni and faculty as 120 Visionary Leaders during a gala at the Jefferson Hotel on May 30. Nancy Langston, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, ANEF, dean of the School of Nursing and one of the honorees, received special recognition for serving 22 years before her retirement this summer.

“Tonight’s really not about me,” Langston said in addressing the honorees. “It’s about us. It’s about you.”

Langston said that recognizing 120 Visionary Leaders aligned with the school’s anniversary.

“I believe each of them would say they are but exemplars of thousands of others,” she said. “There are 120 because we are 120 years old, but there are thousands who truly are Visionary Leaders.”

Langston, who has also served as executive director of Academic Nursing at the VCU Health System, thanked everyone for offering support and encouragement over the years.

“Nothing attributed to me during my career would have been possible without you,” she told the audience.

Marilyn Tavenner, a Visionary Leader honoree who was recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, also offered remarks at the gala.

Tavenner, who earned a B.S. in nursing through the school’s RN to BS completion program and a master’s degree in health administration from VCU, said when she first met Langston in the early 1990s’ they had a conversation about the School of Nursing’s future. She recalled Langston sharing her intent to improve the school’s national rankings, build a new building and incorporate an advanced practitioner program.

‘When I look back and think about what the school has accomplished, it’s all due to people like Nancy,” she said.

Langston’s received tributes from many others during the evening, including Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU, who noted that the School of Nursing was ranked 89th in NIH research funding when she came on board but rose to the top 20 in recent years.

“Anything I have asked of Nancy she has exceeded my expectations,” Rao said.

Sheldon M. Retchin, M.D., M.S.P.H., senior vice president for Health Sciences at VCU and CEO of VCU Health System, said Langston has made an unprecedented impact on nursing at the VCU Health System and has “invested in the school of nursing mightily, taking it from a good school to a great school.”

Jean Giddens, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, the incoming dean of the VCU School of Nursing, was also introduced at the event.

“I come into this position with intense appreciation for past and current accomplishments, and look forward to working with a very talented and dedicated School of Nursing faculty and staff and our many collaborators to take this school to a level of greater distinction,” Giddens said.

A highlight of the gala was the announcement of the successful completion of the Cabaniss Leadership Challenge, the School of Nursing’s $4 million campaign to raise endowed funds for nursing scholarships, professorships and projects in support of the school’s mission. Two large gifts announced as part of the campaign include a $1.25 million gift from the VCU Health System to establish the Nancy F. Langston Center for Quality, Safety and Innovation in the School of Nursing and a $250,000 gift from Gail W. Johnson, RN (B.S.’67/N; M.S.’76/N), CEO of Rainbow Station and chair-elect of the MCV Foundation Board of Trustees, to establish the Gail W. Johnson Professorship for Innovative Leadership in the school.

The gala was co-chaired by Shirley R. Gibson, M.S.H.A., RN, FACHE, associate vice president of Nursing at the VCU Health System, and Gail W. Johnson.

The full list of 120 Visionary Leaders can be viewed on the VCU Nursing website at

View photos from the gala below. More are available on the SON Facebook page in the 2013 Nursing Gala photo album.

Nancy Langston at podium
Dr. Nancy Langston
Marilyn Tavenner 2
Marilyn Tavenner
Visionary Leaders group shot
The Visionary Leaders enjoy a moment together on the stairs of the Rotunda.
Jean Giddens and Nancy Langston 2
Incoming Dean Jean Giddens enjoys a moment with retiring Dean Nancy Langston.
Martha Stokes Cleveland and Sallie Smith
Martha Stokes Cleveland (2nd from left) and Sallie Smith were among the Visionary Leader honorees. Both are alumnae of the St. Philip School of Nursing, which is part of VCU Nursing’s history. They are joined by Vera Cooke-Merritt, a friend of Cleveland’s.
Dr. Sheldon Retchin
Jeanette Kissinger, JoAnne Henry and Mary Corley were among the Visionary Leaders.
Earl Johnson with Gala Co-Chairs Gail Johnson and Shirley Gibson
Guests dine as Tracy Retchin performs her song “By Your Side.”
VCU President Michael Rao and Dr. Nancy Langston
Shirley Gibson, Dr. Nancy Langston and Marilyn Tavenner
Visionary Leader honorees Judith Collins, Nancy McCain and Margaret Lewis enjoy a moment with Dr. Sheldon Retchin.
VCU Board of Visitors member Dr. W. Baxter Perkinson, Jr. presented Dr. Langston with a copy of her favorite painting. He is assisted by James Parrish (on the right).
Gala attendees enjoyed dessert adorned with the school’s 120th logo.











Categories Alumni and Friends, Awards, Events, Faculty and Staff, Uncategorized