Alumna and Nursing Pioneer Extends Impact with Gift to Next Generation of Trailblazers

Photo of Marilyn (Dee) Ray
Marilyn (Dee) Ray

When doctoral student Marilyn (Dee) Ray expressed a desire to augment her graduate work in transcultural nursing, University of Utah College of Nursing Dean Madeleine Leininger told her to "Go for it! Study it!" Now, nearly four decades later, Marilyn is helping future nursing students by naming the College of Nursing as a beneficiary of her retirement fund.

In 1977 Marilyn was one of the first two Ph.D. students in transcultural nursing under the guidance of Dean Leininger, the founder of the discipline. Like her mentor, Marilyn is a pioneer in transcultural nursing—a field that explores how nursing interacts with culture, anthropology, and other disciplines such as philosophy and economics of health.

Living Out a Passion for Caring and Country
Marilyn's passion for human caring was rooted in her childhood when a nurse saved her father's life, and her interest in human culture was cultivated along the self-described "adventure" she pursued when she left her native Canada in 1958. As a young nurse working in Los Angeles during the Civil Rights Movement, Marilyn noticed how race and culture influenced actions and interactions, individuals and communities. By the mid-1960s, she was a citizen of the United States and, with the conflict escalating in Vietnam, she felt a strong desire to do something for her country.

Marilyn joined the Air National Guard as a "live patient care" flight nurse, which led to a 32-year military career. During that time, she maintained her commitment to nursing practice and education while also conducting research that influenced health care policy to provide active duty reservists' families with access to care. "As someone who chose this country, I have a great pride in the United States," Marilyn says. "It was an honor to wear the uniform of the U. S. Air Force."

Identifying and Working Toward Her Vision
At the College of Nursing, Marilyn was eager to integrate her two passions and share her knowledge with nurses and other professionals around the world. "Dean Leininger encouraged expansiveness, which allowed me to be creative and explore," she says. At the dean's recommendation, Marilyn made a list of her top professional goals. Her ultimate desire was to establish transcultural nursing as a practice so that culturally congruent practice, education, research, and administration would become a global standard.

Today Marilyn continues to make strides to achieve her vision, meeting earlier this year with several of the world's leading organizations to share her vision and strategy. "All of a sudden this last vision, this goal I set in school, is now unfolding," she says. For Marilyn the recent passing of her mentor just as Marilyn was advancing the last goal on her list is symbolic.

Extending Her Work Into the Future
Marilyn's planned gift will extend the impact of her work by providing support to cultivate the U's next generation of transcultural nursing students. "I appreciate The University of Utah's commitment to global health," Marilyn says. "No one can be who they are if not for their mentors and educational institutions. I look at my career, and The University of Utah has been so significant—the U helped me become the person I was meant to be."

Join Marilyn in Supporting the Next Generation
To learn more about how you can support future students achieve their goals and change the world, contact Karin Hardy at 801-585-6220, 800-716-0377 (toll free), or karin.hardy@utah.edu.

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