Shirley Sears Chater
Shirley Sears Chater, HUP’53, Nu’56, HON’97, former U.S. Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, stepped down from her position as the national advisory committee chair of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Executive Nurse Fellows program in September of 2012. She is the first and only person to hold this post, and she leaves behind an indelible legacy.
Throughout her career, Dr. Chater has remained at the forefront of nursing achievement. In addition to the degrees she received at Penn, Dr. Chater holds a certificate in management from the Alfred Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. She was one of only 64 nurses in the United States to hold a doctorate when she received her degree. Dr. Chater is also the recipient of 13 honorary doctoral degrees from various colleges and universities.
Dr. Chater served as vice chancellor of academic affairs at the University of California, San Francisco, and president of Texas Woman’s University before assuming the position of commissioner of the United States Social Security Administration under President Bill Clinton. In this role, she oversaw an agency with some 65,000 employees, which served over 42 million Americans. Her concern for her customers and improvements to the program were widely recognized and applauded.
In 1997, after leaving the Social Security Administration, Dr. Chater helped develop the RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows program and took on the role of national advisory committee chair. The Executive Nurse Fellows program is a three year program which seeks to prepare future nurse leaders by providing them with education, mentoring, and other support. Dr. Chater has played a critical role in guiding countless nurses who have participated in the program.
The American Academy of Nursing named Dr. Chater a “living legend” in 2000, and she continues to make a lasting impact on the field of nursing. In addition to AAN, she is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Public Administration, and the Academy of Social Insurance. She has also served on many boards, commissions and committees, including ones for the AAN, American Nurses Association, and the National League for Nursing.
Dr. Chater continues to receive accolades for her work and influence on nursing practice, policy, and education. In the summer of 2012, the Convenient Care Association presented her with the Loretta Ford Lifetime Achievement Award at the Fifth Annual Retail Clinician Educational Congress. At a gala on September 15 honoring her contributions to the RWJF, the Foundation named her one of their “Force Multipliers” they are celebrating during their 40th anniversary, as someone who continues to blaze new trails in nursing.
Dr. Chater is an active Penn Nursing alum, and a member of the Honorary Committee for the Healthy Cities: Healthy Women Los Angeles and Urban Women’s Health conference in November 2012. We are so proud to have Dr. Chater’s support, and to count her among the distinguished members of our School community. Dr. Chater’s contributions have been honored as a part of Penn Nursing’s HUP Fountain paver dedication.