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Mary Elizabeth Carnegie Leadership in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity Award

Bernardine M. Lacey


Dr. Bernardine Lacey served as a professor and founding director of the Western Michigan University Bronson School of Nursing for five years. Her remarkable life and education led to an extraordinary career, advocating for children and homeless individuals in Washington, D.C., and beyond. After leaving Western Michigan University, she continued to work in education, mentoring nurses and nurse educators, shaping the field of nursing for generations to come.


She received her nursing diploma at Gilfoy School of Nursing at Mississippi Baptist Hospital in 1962 and began her career as a staff nurse at Howard University Freedmen’s Hospital, where she worked her way to administrative supervisor. She later earned her BSN from Georgetown University, her master’s degree from Howard University, and her doctorate from Teachers College at Columbia University. 


Dr. Lacey received numerous citations and awards thanks to a lifetime of professional and civic excellence. She served on President Bill Clinton’s Task Force on Health Care Reform and the Clinton/Gore Transition Team Task Force on Health Care Delivery. She received a $1.4 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to develop and direct a nurse-managed respite center for homeless men. At Howard University, she pushed to add care of the under-served to the nursing curriculum.


She has been named a “Living Legend” by the American Academy of Nursing in recognition of her extraordinary contributions to the nursing profession. The National Black Nurses Association inducted Dr. Lacey as a Fellow into the Institute of Excellence and Lifetime Achievement. Other honors include induction as a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, the Georgetown University Distinguished Alumni Award and the American Nurses Association’s Public Health Service Award. She was also the namesake of a $1.5 million donation to WMU to establish the Dr. Bernardine M. Lacey Endowed Chair in Community Health Nursing.


In August 2020, Dr. Lacey’s oral history, “You Don’t Have Any Business Being This Good,” was published in the American Journal of Nursing. The article details her experiences with racism in her education and career. Her work continues to be presented and documented in local and national radio, television and print publications.


Dr. Lacey passed away on March 26, 2021.

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