By Dave Ongie, News Editor
After more than four decades at ETSU, Dr. Wilsie Bishop was able to look back on a distinguished career during a retirement celebration held in her honor on the Mountain Home VA Campus last Friday afternoon.
The speakers who came up to the podium to speak about Bishop’s contributions to the university talked a lot about the importance of process in Bishop’s dynamic leadership style that carried her from a role as a temporary faculty member in 1978 to her current position of Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academics. But they also were careful to note that process never came before the people Bishop worked with.
Bishop’s passion for those around her was best illustrated on Friday not in the words spoken by her distinguished colleagues or Dr. Brian Noland and Dr. Paul Stanton, two university presidents she served under. Instead, Bishop’s passion for people was most evident in the large contingent of colleagues, family and friends who turned out on a hot summer afternoon to wish her well in her forthcoming retirement.
“I couldn’t do what I have achieved without people, because the way I work is through people,” Bishop said. “I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with outstanding deans who are enthusiastic, who believe in this university as much as I do. When I was dean, I worked with department chairs who had the same drive to make the college better.”
Bishop came to ETSU as a temporary faculty member in the College of Nursing in 1978. Since that time, she earned tenure and progressed through the faculty ranks, serving in administrative roles including department chair, dean, and assistant/associate vice president prior to becoming a vice president in 2005. While serving in various administrative roles, she has continued to be a classroom teacher as well as a mentor for doctoral and graduate students.
In 2007, she transitioned to Vice President for Health Affairs (VPHA), becoming the first non-physician to hold the VPHA title. In this position, she embraced and led the university’s Interprofessional Education (IPE) and the team-based care that it embodied as the future of quality health care delivery.
Through the IPE initiative, ETSU not only created opportunities for shared classroom experiences, but was able to create a building where team-based learning is the priority and students can work and study together in preparation for their future careers as health care providers. The Interprofessional Education and Research Center (Building 60) is a physical symbol of vision becoming reality, and it now bears her name and will henceforth be known as Bishop Hall.
Bishop also acknowledged the role that her family has played in her life, starting with her parents who taught her the value of hard work and sticking to her commitments. She talked of how her husband Paul has been a constant source of support since they met and married as college students at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“We met in night class at Virginia Commonwealth University,” Bishop recalled. “It was an Urban Affairs class. We like to tell people we had one and got married at the end of the second semester.”
Bishop beamed with pride as her son Joe walked up to the podium and spoke about having a mother who was as devoted to her family as she was to the university that employed her for 43 years. When it was her turn to talk, Bishop spoke of the joy that awaits her in retirement as she watches her son, daughter-in-law and her grandkids make their way through the world.
On June 30, Bishop will turn in her keys and prepare for the next chapter of her life, and she’ll do so with a spirit of thanksgiving. “I’ve sat through a lot of retirement ceremonies over the years, and I’ve often wondered what that day would be like for me,” Bishop said. “I can tell you that I feel incredibly blessed to have been a part of this university. It has been a joy to be part of the growth, to be part of the significance it has in this region and this community.”