Dec. 11, 2014
By Toni Cardarella
University of Kansas Medical Center faculty and staff, as well as family, friends and former colleagues, gathered Tuesday evening to celebrate the career of Rita Clifford, Ph.D., RN, who is retiring from the KU School of Nursing after more than five decades.
Clifford, associate dean for community engagement, has served in many roles since becoming a faculty member in 1964, including about 30 years as associate dean of student affairs. She was named to her current position in 2012. Her retirement is effective Dec. 31.
A retirement reception in the KU School of Nursing atrium honored Clifford as an educator, leader and influential presence at the school as well as a champion for the School, the university and the profession of nursing.
"Rita is an icon of the KU School of Nursing," said Karen L. Miller, Ph.D., RN, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at the University of Kansas Medical Center and dean of the KU School of Nursing.
Clifford was lauded for her involvement and support in the development of the School's master's, Ph.D. and Doctor of Nurse Practitioner programs, and in the planning, design and construction of the current KU School of Nursing building, which opened in 2000.
In thanking Clifford for her contributions and 50 years of service to the School, Miller praised Clifford's common sense, high standards, integrity, unfailing kindness and great sense of humor.
"Your legacy is the thousands of students, faculty and staff who have counted on you every single day for support," she told Clifford.
Clifford has witnessed a great deal of change at the KU Medical Center campus during her tenure, first as a student then faculty member and leader, said Douglas A. Girod, M.D., executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center. The Medical Center, which includes the schools of Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions, has grown to 3,400 students, 54 degree programs and an estimated $116 million in externally funded research.
More than 700 of those students are enrolled in the undergraduate and graduate programs at the School of Nursing, he said. Clifford's own 1962 graduating class held 61 students. Girod acknowledged Clifford's steadfast leadership and a "very productive" 50 years at KU Medical Center. "We congratulate you on a remarkable and distinguished career," he said.
Clifford's husband and daughter attended the reception, which included presentations of gifts, certificates and plaques. Also, Peggy Person, senior development director at KU Endowment Association, announced that the School of Nursing has established a new scholarship, the Rita Harris Clifford Student Scholarship.
Roger Lambson, who served as vice chancellor of administration for KU Medical Center from 1984 to 1999, was among the featured speakers at the reception. He noted Clifford's movement through faculty and leadership ranks. Her career, he said, was more than academic achievements, one specific accomplishment or even longevity.
"Rita Clifford is indeed a prominent figure who helped shape the history of the School of Nursing and nourished its development and maturation."