Former dean leaves legacy of caring
Campus mourns passing of Joyce Ferrario
Joyce Ferrario, former dean of Binghamton University’s Decker School of Nursing (now Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences), died unexpectedly Jan. 23 at her home in Auburn, Calif. She was 75 years old.
A gerontological and psychiatric nursing specialist, Ferrario earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of California-San Francisco, a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing from Boston University and a doctoral degree in gerontological nursing from Case Western Reserve University.
Before joining Binghamton University, she worked at Belmont Hills Psychiatric Hospital in California and Foxborough State Hospital in Massachusetts. She also taught at California State University-Chico and served as clinical chief and chair of gerontological nursing at the University of Rochester School of Nursing.
Ferrario joined the Decker School in 1985 as an assistant professor. She then served as assistant clinical professor, associate professor and professor, in addition to graduate program coordinator and associate dean. She was interim dean of the school from 2002 to 2003, and was appointed dean in 2005. At that time, the Decker School was the only school in the country to offer a doctoral degree in rural nursing and the first public school of nursing in the state to offer a PhD in nursing.
During her 10 years as dean of the Decker School, Ferrario helped establish the school’s graduate program in gerontological nursing and its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. As a result, under her leadership Decker more than tripled its graduate enrollment. Ferrario also worked to bring Health and Wellness Studies into the Decker School, as well as establish that division’s minor. She was instrumental in expanding Decker’s international footprint, securing funding for the school and developing a state-of-the-art simulation lab to enhance student training. She also created Decker’s Elder Services Center.
“Joyce was a passionate advocate for the Decker School of Nursing, its faculty and students, and the nursing profession,” said Donald Nieman, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost.
“She understood that nurses were being called upon to play an increasingly important role in healthcare and provided vital leadership for expanding graduate nursing education at Binghamton,” he added. “Those of us who worked with Joyce will remember her acerbic wit, hearty laugh and commitment to Decker.”
Ferrario stepped down as dean in 2015. In an article that appeared in Decker’s magazine (Decker Connect) in 2016 she explained why.
“I had been dean for about 10 years and associate dean for 10 years before that, and I was tired. … It was time,” she said. She added that she was happy to be back in the classroom.
“Joyce had an innate curiosity, passion and commitment to new ideas and interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Geraldine Britton, PhD ’04, research associate professor. “She was so supportive of all the faculty’s ideas and was always available and approachable to sit down and discuss anything under the sun and give sage advice!”
Britton added, “When I first started my PhD program, as my advisor Joyce not only encouraged my study on perinatal smoking cessation but also forged connections for me with faculty in other Binghamton University schools and departments doing research on substance-abuse addictions. This support continued after she hired me as a faculty member, assisting me with grant applications to form the Interdisciplinary Tobacco Research Program so that all levels of nursing students could be involved. She often attended our end-of-semester luncheons where undergraduate and graduate students presented their work. She often garnered funds for them so they could attend national and regional conferences. She also encouraged many of them to continue on in the PhD program; some are now Decker faculty members.”
Ferrario remained on Decker’s faculty as a professor until her retirement in 2018.
“Joyce will always hold a special place in my heart. Her compassion, support and understanding will never be forgotten,” said Associate Professor Judy Quaranta ’79, MS ’98, PhD ’13. “When my son was a high school student and needed a summer job, Joyce hired him to work in the office, as well as help around her home. My son still talks about working on her patio!
“During my husband’s illness and subsequent death, Joyce made this terrible ordeal that much more bearable. She arranged for meals to be sent to my home, and removed any worries I might have had about maintaining my position at the Decker School of Nursing,” Quaranta added. “Joyce was also very supportive of the faculty in pursuit of their scholarly endeavors, providing the funds so we could present our research and gain expertise. And who could forget her love of animals and her beautiful dogs! Joyce truly had a heart of gold.”
Throughout her career, Ferrario received several awards and honors, published numerous pieces in scholarly publications and received dozens of research grants. She was also the featured speaker at peer reviewed conferences and community focused events. Additionally, she was a board member of several organizations including the Alzheimer’s Association, Broome County Office for Aging and Ross Park Zoo. She also consulted for a variety of groups including the U. S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, New York State Health Department, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Brockport, Nazareth College and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
The Dr. Joyce Ferrario Memorial Nursing Scholarship has been established and is accepting donations. For complete details, go to the Decker College Giving webpage.