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53-year-old Millbury resident starts nursing career

A 53-year-old Owens Community College non-traditional student, Jeff Burnside of Millbury, made his life-changing decision several years ago to leave the manufacturing industry because of its bleak outlook in Northwest Ohio.

His decision resulted in taking a "leap of faith" move and returning to school with the eventual goal of a career in health care. On Friday, Dec. 12, Jeff's hard work and persistence will pay off as he graduates from Owens Community College with a degree in registered nursing and a new career and job as a male nurse awaits him.

Several years ago, Burnside lost his job at Abbey Etna in Perrysburg as a machinist when the company closed its doors. At that time, he pursued his machinist and millwright cards from the Millwright Local 1393 in Rossford.

Still worried about the future of manufacturing, he decided to take the "leap of faith" and return to school for a college education in the spring of 2005. Jeff balanced his educational commitments between family life and another full-time job in maintenance at BP.

Jeff was more than willing to share his story on Friday at Owens’ Fall Commencement in the College's Student Health and Activities Center. Additionally, Burnside will be graduating with honors.

Also of note, 55-year-old Nila Jennings of Maumee, a middle childhood education major, has been selected as the Owens class representative and will address the graduates during the Fall Commencement ceremony.

Jennings grew up in a small, rural town in Tennessee. From a young age she dreamed of a college education, but in the time and area she grew up in, there were not many women who attended college.

After graduating from high school, she enrolled in a one-year program at Knoxville Business College and finished at the top of her class. She went on to work as a secretary and administrative assistant in the aerospace and defense industry and started a family. From time-to-time, she took a few classes at community colleges wherever she lived.

In 1995, Jennings moved to the Toledo area and began an online home-decor business. Despite enjoying success in life, she always felt that without a degree she was missing something.

“My life has been very rewarding, but many doors were always closed to me because I was missing that one very important piece - a formal education,” said Jennings.

At the urging of her family, she enrolled at Owens in 2007 at the age of 53. Although a non-traditional student, Jennings found her time in college to be an immensely enriching experience and she benefited from the camaraderie she shared with the younger students.

Her son, Jason Carver, was a constant source of support and encouragement for her throughout her time at Owens. It was his love and confidence in her, the devotion of her family, the support of her church, and the steady encouragement from faculty members at Owens that has brought her to this great day of success.

One of Jennings’ favorite sayings is, “Failure is never failure unless we quit.” She will address that theme in her commencement address.

An honors student with a 4.0 grade point average, Jennings will be attending the University of Toledo for her bachelor’s degree in organizational and leadership management after graduation and intends on opening her own consulting business focused on leadership development. Additionally, she envisions advocating the importance of a college education to area young adults as a motivational speaker. Her community involvement includes serving on the board of the PAM Foundation, a non-profit organization which provides clothing and school supplies to economically disadvantaged students in southeast Tennessee’s rural communities.

“Children may not always have the best, but if we can help them to believe in themselves and see the great potential that lies within them, then they too can reach their dreams. I hope to show others that a college degree is attainable for everyone who will dare to believe, take the first step, and never give up,” said Jennings.

Five hundred ninety-three candidates for graduation, including 107 from the Findlay-area Campus, received their degrees during the 30th annual Fall Commencement at Owens.

Barbara Steele, Regional President of the ProMedica Health System, served as keynote speaker for the Fall Commencement. Owens’ commencement ceremony is free and open to the public.

“Owens Community College is extremely honored to have Barbara Steele with us to celebrate the academic achievements of our graduates,” said Christa Adams, Ph.D., President of Owens Community College. “Ms. Steele is an accomplished leader within the health care community and has played a significant role in advancing medical innovations within the region. Her insightful message will serve as an inspiration to the College’s graduating class as they become the educators, scientists, health care professionals, technologists, musicians, skilled laborers, first responders and business leaders of tomorrow.”

For more than 30 years, Steele has been a local, regional and national leader in the health care industry. As Regional President for ProMedica Health System, Steele oversees the business development, operations, strategic initiatives and community relations for eight acute care hospitals, including The Toledo Hospital, the area’s leading tertiary care facility, and Toledo Children’s Hospital, the region’s only accredited hospital exclusively serving children. Additionally, she is responsible for ProMedica Cancer Institute and ProMedica Orthopaedic Institute, several ambulatory care facilities, and more than 1,100 physicians and 13,000 employees.

Throughout her career, Steele has demonstrated superior vision while embracing emerging medical trends and technology. Her outstanding dedication to continuous progress and innovation has enabled ProMedica to address the changing needs of the health care industry in order to ensure future stability and viable operations. In this capacity, Steele has been instrumental in the planning, development and execution of numerous transformational initiatives within ProMedica Health System including the integration of services at Flower Hospital, The Toledo Hospital and Toledo Children’s Hospital, which resulted in $28 million merger savings; and the $156 million “Renaissance Project,” which rejuvenated the campus of The Toledo Hospital and Toledo Children’s Hospital.

Steele began her career in health care in 1974 as a nurse. In 1984, she achieved her first senior administrative position as Vice President of Nursing at W. A. Foote Memorial Hospital in Jackson, Mich. Steele came to Toledo in 1989 when she accepted the position of Vice President of Nursing at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

In 1995, Steele joined ProMedica Health System as the Chief Operating Officer of The Toledo Hospital. Three years later, she was named The Toledo Hospital’s first female President in its 125-year history. From 1998-2008, Steele’s role expanded from President of The Toledo Hospital to her current position as Regional President responsible for oversight of all ProMedica acute care business units.

In addition, Steele has held numerous national leadership positions, serving on several boards including the American Hospital Association and the Ohio Hospital Association. Locally, she has been involved with the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program, area women’s shelters, the Maumee Valley Girl Scouts and Partners In Education. She is also an active member of the Toledo Opera Board and the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce Board.

Steele holds a master’s degree in business administration from Central Michigan University, a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Eastern Michigan University and an associate’s degree in nursing from Lansing Community College.


 

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