A Celebratory Sendoff for Dean Vivian Taylor
Colleagues, friends, and family gathered September 13, 2023, to honor Vivian Taylor, EdD, who is retiring after a decade as associate dean for diversity and cultural affairs at Columbia Nursing.
Dean Taylor joined the school as its first dean of diversity after nearly three decades at Barnard College, where she served as vice president for community development. At the event, Columbia colleagues paid tribute to her leadership in advancing social justice and health equity; her achievements in building a more diverse and inclusive community, at Columbia Nursing and beyond; her warmth, integrity, commitment, and compassion; and her restorative hugs.
“She has been a driving force in helping us develop a more inclusive and diverse culture at the school and in navigating this era of social and racial upheaval,” Dean Lorraine Frazier, PhD, said in her introductory remarks. “With an open door and an open heart, her wise and informed counsel has made Columbia Nursing a better institution.”
Dennis Mitchell, DDS, interim provost and professor of dental medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, noted that he first met Vivian when he served on the search committee that brought her to Barnard in 1983. “More than almost any person I’ve met, Vivian is a leader who builds, supports, and strengthens community around her. Just look around the room,” he said.
“There are many facets of Vivian’s contributions to Columbia, Barnard, and beyond that we could discuss,” he added. “But what I find most important and impressive is how dedicated—and how effective she has been—in creating inclusive community across Columbia over nearly four decades.
“Vivian, the sense of community and belonging you create is infectious,” Dr. Mitchell said.
Another long-term colleague and friend, Anne Taylor, MD, vice dean of academic affairs at the College of Physicians and Surgeons and John Lindenbaum Professor of Medicine and senior vice president for faculty affairs at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, said: “Vivian is one of those very extraordinary people who greets everyone with warmth, with cheerfulness, thoughtfulness, a sense of humor, and a smile. She’s the person who always makes me, and I suspect many others, feel better, just by a passing ‘hi, how are you,’ or a longer, deeper, more profound conversation...Vivian really has made a difference.”
Kellie Bryant, DNP, assistant dean of clinical affairs and simulation and an associate professor, recalled Vivian’s warm welcome when she first came to Columbia Nursing in 2016. “And most importantly that hug. How many of you know Vivian’s hugs? If you haven’t you’ve missed out!”
She added: “Through your leadership, you guided us through some challenges surrounding social justice, and you taught us how to recognize and dismantle our own biases. In her work with underserved communities through programs like the Summer Health Professionals Education Program and Geriatric Care Development, Bryant added, Dean Taylor has influenced the younger generation as well. “You have no idea of how many people you’ve inspired, how you’ve helped increase the diversity of the nursing workforce through the work that you’ve done.”
Karinne Ovalles, who has worked closely with Dean Taylor as the diversity and justice initiative coordinator at Columbia Nursing, said: “Dr. Taylor has shown us what true leadership looks like. She has guided me through countless challenges, while inspiring me to reach new heights.”
Mobolaji Odewole, a student in the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program, who got to know Dean Taylor over the years through committees and programs he joined to support minority high school and college students, couldn’t have communicated her impact more profoundly:
"In all that Dr. Taylor has accomplished at Columbia Nursing, she exemplifies the pure joy and humanity of living life with her warmth and compassion.”