Remembering a Health Care Advocate through a New Peer Health Educator Award

Jean Grant, the former director of the Mary Walker Health Services Center at SUNY Oswego, shared her extraordinary skill, compassion and empathy with students and campus members for 37 years. She died in 2013 at the age of 65, but she left behind a legacy that helped improve American healthcare and established SUNY Oswego as a leader in college health administration.

As director of Health Services, Grant led the Mary Walker Health Center to national accreditation and successfully lobbied the New York State Legislature to recognize the emerging role of nurse practitioners in modern health care. She was among the first nurse practitioners in New York State, served as a founding member of the state Coalition of Nurse Practitioners and helped solidify nurse practitioners’ role in delivering high-quality and compassionate healthcare.

Her skill and dedication were evident in her work every day, including when a SUNY Oswego student was diagnosed with measles a few decades ago. She led a massive immunization campaign for all students, and eventually the state health department passed a law requiring immunization of all students.

Those who knew Jean remember her intelligence, integrity, compassion, leadership, generosity, commitment, warmth and good humor.

In recognition of her dedication to health education and care at SUNY Oswego, her husband, Joe, a former vice president of student affairs and enrollment, established the Jean M. Grant Student Peer Health Educator Memorial Award. The award recognizes an outstanding student health educator who provided distinguished service to the college community.

“Peer health education had a special place in Jean’s heart,” Joe said. “She strongly believed that students have the capacity to help other students make positive life choices. We hope this award encourages students to become involved as health educators and do their best to deliver those messages to help their peers make better decisions. In a small way, the award helps share Jean’s remarkable assets with future generations of students.”

In April, the first Jean Grant memorial award was presented to Tracey Hagan ’16, a wellness management and human resource management double major from Burnt Hills, N.Y. Hagan was a peer educator and intern in the Lifestyles Center, a health promotion organization on campus, and volunteers with the Counseling Center’s Peer-2-Peer program.

“I would not be the same person I am today without becoming a peer educator,” said Hagan, who hopes to pursue a career as a health educator. “It trained me to specialize in topics that were relevant to my peers but also my own development. I definitely feel like I have made an impact on the well-being of my friends and that I can be a resource to them when they need it.

“I have heard that Jean was an amazing health educator with a great sense of humor,” she said. “Receiving this award was a tremendous honor and incredibly humbling.”

—Margaret Spillett

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