Susan Safran ’77 laughed as she listened to people speak at a reception in her honor. Just down the street, construction on the new Nursing and Instructional Building that she helped champion continued on UNC Greensboro’s campus.
Safran accepted the 2019 UNCG School of Nursing Distinguished Alumni Award on Thursday evening for her significant contributions to the nursing profession and her strong support for her alma mater.
A large group that included UNCG Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. and Provost Dana Dunn gathered inside the Alumni House to recognize Safran, who joked that she might be one of the most photographed people in the university’s history.
“Clearly Susan has had a great impact on the School of Nursing over the years since she graduated, being an active alum serving in various capacities for the school,” Gilliam said. “But she’s also been an invaluable asset to the university more broadly.”
Safran, the former chair of UNCG’s Board of Trustees, has become a strong advocate for the School of Nursing. She established a scholarship in her name and has provided funds for students in the university’s Veterans Access Program, which allows medically trained veterans to receive a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Even the outfit Safran wore to the Distinguished Alumni Award reception showed her unwavering support for the nursing school. She greeted guests and posed for photos while still wearing the white lab coat she had on Thursday afternoon as she served as the keynote speaker at UNCG’s White Coat Ceremony for new nursing students.
However, as Safran told students during her speech, she was almost an alumna of another university in the Triad. She was on track to graduate from Wake Forest University with degrees in Spanish and business, but she transferred to UNCG after realizing her heart was in nursing.
“We came over here. I found out about the [nursing] program. I got an application. I applied, and that was it,” said Safran, who’s the founder and former owner of CPR Consultants, Inc., which trains first responders on ways to administer safe emergency treatment.
Safran’s connection to UNCG grew out of her time as a young nursing student. She still remembers one of her professors giving a lecture in class about how the greatest privilege in life is helping a patient die with dignity.
Safran also learned from Dr. Eloise Lewis, the first dean of the School of Nursing. As Safran put it, Lewis was “a force to be reckoned with” because of her strict ways as a military veteran. Safran discovered her calling along the way.
“It was wonderful. I loved the sciences,” Safran said of nursing school. “You know, you come in and it’s a heavy-duty year because as a Spanish and business major [at Wake Forest] you don’t take a lot of science. So, I had math, but I had to take microbiology, physics, chemistry and all this in the same year.”
Safran rotated off UNCG’s Board of Trustees in June after serving on it for 10 years. During her tenure, she chaired the search committee that hired Gilliam as UNCG’s 11th chancellor.
Story by Alex Abrams, School of Nursing
Photography by Lynn Hey