Jamaican Canadian Scholar Appointed to Prestigious Post at US University

Karen Flynn

By Neil Armstrong

Photo credit: Andrea Peart Williams

A Jamaican Canadian academic, Dr. Karen Flynn, has been invested as the Terrance & Karyn Holm Endowed Professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, College of Nursing.

At the investiture, which was held on April 30, Dean Eileen Collins, UIC College of Nursing said the occasion celebrated three extraordinary nurse faculty formally seated in some of the most prestigious roles the college has to offer. The others were Shannon Halloway as the Heung Soo & Mi Ja Kim Endowed Faculty Scholar, and Janna Stephens as Nursing Collegiate Professor.

Dr. Collins said endowed positions are important ways in which they can support their faculty as educators, researchers, clinicians, and mentors. “Appointees to these positions feel a level of acknowledgement and appreciation that no one time award can match,” said Collins while thanking the donors Dr. Karyn Holm and Dr. Mi Ja Kim.

Dr. Robert Barish, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs of the university, said an investiture is a revered academic tradition, it is the act of bestowing a select few who distinguish themselves as leaders to positions of prestige and honour.

From Left Janna Stephens, Karen Flynn and Shannon Halloway

“Endowed faculty positions are crucial sources of support to sustain a tradition of excellence for many years into the future. They don’t only elevate the faculty who are named to those positions, they also reflect the excellence of the college and the university. They bring greater visibility to the institution and allow us to attract more of the best and brightest talent. This in turn attracts likeminded philanthropy which ultimately benefits our students and the communities that we serve. So, it’s a virtuous cycle and it’s a virtuous circle which of course is the best kind.”

Dr. Flynn, PhD, an alumna of the University of Windsor and York University, has created a body of work focused on nursing and health care history in the context of Black feminist and diaspora studies.

Her award-winning book, “Moving Beyond Borders: Black Canadian and Caribbean women in the African Canadian Diaspora,” delves into the experiences of 35 postwar-era nurses in Canada.

She also co-led with fellow UIC nursing professor Gwyneth Franck a traveling exhibit and website, the Mapping Care project, highlighting the historic and current contributions of Black nurses in Chicago. She is also working with grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to help build an archive of East St. Louis residents experiences during the pandemic. Dr. Flynn also serves as director of the Midwest Nursing History Research Center housed in the College of Nursing.

She was previously associate professor in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

In the preamble to introducing Dr. Flynn, Dr. Collins thanked the donor Dr. Karyn Holm, who was present, and her late husband Terrance, for making the donation to create the professorship. “The existence of the professorship allowed the college to recruit a preeminent scholar of nursing history, Dr. Karen Flynn.”

Referencing lines from Patti LaBelle’s song, “When You’ve Been Blessed,” Dr. Flynn said it reflects aspects of her own life and the fundamental belief that when you have been blessed you must pass it on. She encourages her students to do the same.

“Today, I stand before you a product of a large village and tribe that transcends Jamaica where I was born, Canada where I spent my formative years — most of my life — and the United States where I now live, work, and laugh. I’m here because at every step of this journey people have supported me in immeasurable ways.”

The well-wishers included family, friends, some teachers from Jamaica and Canada, and colleagues.