Volunteer Profile Wally Pinkard

March 27, 2023 by Ashley Stimpson

After a quarter century of service, Wally Pinkard steps away as chair of the Nursing Advisory Board

When Wally Pinkard agreed to chair the Nursing Advisory Board (NAB), he was adamant: He’d do the job for two years, tops. Last year, after 25 years in the role, Pinkard finally stepped away, leaving behind a Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (SON) that looks very different than it did a quarter century ago.

Johns Hopkins School of Nursing Dean Sarah Szanton and Dean Emerita Martha Hill stand with nursing volunteer Wally Pinkard and his wife Mary-Ann.
Wally Pinkard, standing with his wife Mary-Ann (far right), served with current School of Nursing Dean Sarah Szanton (far left) and Dean Emerita Martha Hill during his tenure as Nursing Advisory Board chair.

“Wally’s historic tenure was defined by an entrepreneurial spirit that led our school to unparalleled success,” says Sarah Szanton, the dean of the SON, which has been recognized five years in a row as the top nursing master’s program in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Pinkard will continue to serve the NAB as an ex-officio chair emeritus.

A native of Baltimore, Pinkard says he enjoyed a privileged upbringing, “and when you have that, I think, it’s your responsibility to give back.” After earning degrees from Yale and Harvard Business School, the commercial real estate CEO returned to the city and did just that.

Over the years, Pinkard has sat on the board of a remarkable number of Baltimore’s nonprofit and charitable organizations, including the France-Merrick Foundation, the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, and the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance.

Despite his initial reluctance to chair the NAB, serving the school is something of a family inheritance for Pinkard; his mother Anne was the first elected female trustee in Johns Hopkins University’s history. In 1997, the first Hopkins building devoted solely to nursing education and research was named for her.

One of Pinkard’s first accomplishments as chair was to make sure nursing had a seat at the table — literally. “The Hopkins Medicine Board meetings would have a leader of every specialty in the room, but we did not have a chief nursing officer. It surprised me,” he remembers. “We now have a great CNO. With a ‘subtle’ push, we got that change.”

Johns Hopkins School of Nursing Professor Debbie Gross has short dark hair, wears a black blazer and glasses and smiles.
Wally was instrumental in establishing the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Endowed Professor in Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing held by faculty member Debbie Gross.

Indeed, greater representation and recruiting have been hallmarks of Pinkard’s tenure, and the former chair says he’s proud of the work the school has done in attracting top talent, including the establishment of two new endowed professorships. One of those, the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Professor in Mental Health and Psychiatric Nursing, was the first endowed professorship in SON that incorporates a dual appointment with the School of Medicine.

Pinkard, who serves as a trustee for the Stulman Foundation, says this cross-discipline appointment was a part of a larger effort to facilitate more collaboration between nursing and medicine. “When I became head of the board, Wolfe Street was a wall, with nursing on one side and the hospital on the other,” he recalls. “And that is totally not applicable today.”

Debbie Gross, a child psychiatric nurse who was installed as the Stulman professor in 2008, says it was Pinkard who “went to the mat for the position.”

Gross was gratified that Pinkard’s support for her work remained steadfast, even after the fanfare of the announcement had passed. “There are some people who would be off to something else, the next shiny ball. But not Wally. Wally is all in once he makes the commitment. Emotionally, intellectually, fiscally,” Gross says. “He’s just an incredibly kind and supportive person. A huge champion of nurses and the power of nursing.”

During the past 25 years, Pinkard says he’s been excited to watch the positive changes taking place in the profession, including the number of men now graduating from SON. Twice honored as a “Best School for Men in Nursing” by the American Association for Men in Nursing, the school has worked hard to “create an environment that’s welcoming for everyone,” Pinkard says.

In addition to demographic trends, Pinkard says attitudes toward nurses — in society and at the school — have also shifted. “Several decades ago, we were on the short end of the stick. That has changed. Patients recognize the impact nurses have, and leadership at Hopkins recognize the impact nurses have.”

Wearing a black dress with white trim, School of Nursing Advisory Board chair Natalie Bush smiles and stands at a podium with a microphone.
New NAB Chair Natalie Bush says that Wally was part of the reason she joined the school’s board.

While the world changed, the new chair of the NAB, Natalie Bush, says her predecessor also transformed the board itself.

“We took this board to a very different level being strategic about the types of talent that we needed to bring in, so that we could be giving the dean the very best thinking today,” she explains. “Wally was instrumental in making those changes.”

Bush, who worked as a nurse in Australia and California, has served on the NAB for five years. She says Pinkard was part of the reason she came on board. “Right off the bat I could just tell how committed he was to the School of Nursing and that there was a really special relationship there. That was a big reason I said yes.”

Bush intends to keep Pinkard on speed dial. “We will never let Wally go.”

The chair emeritus will be answering those calls. “I don’t plan to miss anything,” he says.

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