The History of Gamma Alpha Chapter 
Sigma Theta Tau International

Chartered on April 11, 1976
71st Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau
4th Chapter in California
1st Chapter in Southern California
1st in SDA Higher Education

An honor society that would recognize excellence in the student body of Loma Linda University School of Nursing (LLUSN) and nursing leaders in the community was a vision of Dr. Marilyn Christian, Dean of LLUSN.  She appointed faculty members, Dr. Patricia Foster and Dorothy Martin, MS, to initiate the process of a steering committee of faculty, students, and alumni. 

The initial work of dialoguing with University administrators, the school of nursing student body, developing bylaws and criteria for eligibility for membership, and obtaining the information required for application by the national organization took a full year. 

The National organization (later to become International) accepted the application in the fall of 1975 and instructions were given for the planning of the chartering inauguration.  A site visit by a National Officer to verify and approve the application for inclusion in Sigma Theta Tau, National Honor Society of Nursing was required prior to the official vote to induct LLUSN as a site for a chapter.

Individual members who are to be remembered for this intense, challenging work are:

Steering Committee Members:    

  • Kathryn Gosse, Chair; Howard Adams; Marie Whisman; Pamela Bracker; Ina Longway; Patricia Foster

Bylaws Committee Members:      

  • Howard Adams, Chair; Ann Wood; Nancy Hosek

Eligibility Committee Members:   

  • Patricia Foster, Howard Adams, Kathryn Gosse,
  • Sharon Clark, Colleen Hewes, Cheryl Smith. Frances Pride, Consultant.

The Steering Committee faced a challenge.  An unidentified member admits: “A few individuals thought that we might be establishing an elitist organization; an organization that was in some way discriminatory.  We believed that our course of action was correct, but at the same time we wanted to hear the concerns of individuals with different ideas.  We sought counsel from a wide variety of people whose advice we respected.  The consensus was that there are times in a person’s life when it is appropriate to acknowledge and reward someone’s accomplishments.”  Sister Rosemary Donelly, Site Visitor for the National Honor Society, agreed. She stated, “Membership in Sigma Theta Tau is a commitment. It is a personal acceptance of God-given talent and the (individual’s) response (to) scholarship, creativity and work for the advancement and elevation of standards of nursing practice.”

Our critics accepted a compromise statement of purpose and we proceeded. That compromise statement was an additional purpose to the standard five of the National organization: (1)  Recognize superior achievement. (2)  Recognize the development of leadership qualities. (3) Foster high professional standards. (4) Encourage creative work. (5) Strengthen commitment to the ideals and purposes of the profession.  (6)“To foster professional excellence and scholarly co-operation within the context of Christian commitment.”

Sister Rosemary Donelly, President of the National Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau officiated at the charter of Gamma Alpha Chapter on April 11, 1976The original charter hangs in the foyer of the School of Nursing.  One hundred fourteen names are recorded as charter members including two transferring members.

As noted above because of the unique mission of Loma Linda University (LLU) the chapter was permitted to add a sixth purpose to the standard five. As  time has passed, so has leadership changes along with changes in the values in contemporary society, International Governance Committee has stated that Gamma Apha Chapter’s  sixth purpose must be deleted because “it may be seen as discriminating against other religions principles, and this is not permitted under the bylaws of the organization.” The communication reminds the chapter that chapters of Sigma Theta Tau International are recognized as autonomous organization from universities because they are not university funded and file tax-exempt documentation separately from the university.”  (See e-mail of 02/09/2009.)  That purpose is no longer stated in the chapter publications.

Under the leadership of Michael Galbraith,  – 1982-1983, when the chapter was only 7 years old, a competitive Research Recognition Award was initiated May 3, 1983Criteria were established which included active membership status, an application, and an accountability component.  A sum of $500 seed money was defined and is granted annually to approved applicants at the Induction Ceremony.  Criteria and application are available on the chapter’s website. 

Eager to demonstrate scholarship beyond the local chapter, this same year (1983) the chapter was able to assist Barbara Frye, Past President – 1981-1982, with limited funding to make a presentation at STTI’s Research Congress in Madrid, Spain.  The chapter also sponsored Lois Van Cleve, Faculty Advisor, to present her research at the 25th Biennial Conference, San Francisco, CA.  Her topic:  “Parental Coping with a Child with Spina Bifida.”

The calendar year of 1988 records three significant contributions.  First of note is the chapter’s pledge of $1000 to support the creation of the “Virginia Henderson National Center for Nursing Scholarship.”  A brick with Gamma Alpha’s name commemorates this commitment in the lobby of the Center.

The second significant contribution in 1988 was the establishment of The Clarice Woodward Nursing Excellence in Writing Award under the leadership of Cheryl Anholm, President – 1987-1988.  Named for Clarice Woodward, MS, a beloved graduate faculty advisor at LLUSN, who helped many graduate students to produce publications in referred journals.  Criteria were established which included active membership status and an application process.  These are found on the chapter website.  Awardees are recognized at the annual Induction Ceremony and their names recorded on a bronze plague displayed on the wall in the School, in recognition of members’ scholarship.

The third and last significant contribution in 1988 was outreach, networking and collaborating with the eight STTI Southern California Chapters to plan and sponsor local Research Conferences in Region 1.  Margaret Burns, President – 1988-1989 led the chapter participation that currently continues. 

Venturing her leadership beyond the local chapter, Patricia Foster, PhD, chapter founder - 1976, past faculty sponsor – 1975-1976, and President – 1991-1992, ran for Region I Coordinator at the 32nd  Biennial Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana in November 1993.  The chapter provided emotional support and limited funding while the chapter’s official delegates provided tangible and emotional support at the convention. 

Under the leadership of Patricia Jones, President – 1993-1994, the Excellence in Nursing Leadership in Clinical Practice Award was created in 1994.  As with the previous awards, criteria were developed to recognize leadership at the staff level of nursing practice and requires a colleague to initiate the process with a letter of support and recommendation.  The first award was presented June 9, 1995.

Applying for International’s First Time Researcher Award Keri K. Medina, MS, SN faculty member, received a check July 11, 1995 for $2,100 from International in support of her dissertation research, “Becoming an Exerciser:  A Grounded Theory Study.”  Her study findings, “Building Exercise Identity,” were published: in Reflections. 1997, Volume 22 (1), pages 22, 23.

Lois Van Cleve, PhD, President – 1996-1997 chaired Region 1 Awards Committee and presented the Region 1 Awards at the 34th  Biennial Convention in Salt Lake City.  That same year she was named STTI Virginia Henderson Fellow.  Lois’s leadership contributions have extended to regional and international levels in the research area of pain in children.

Gamma Alpha Chapter inducted Dr. Siriporn Tantipoonvinia, President, Mission College, and Bangkok, Thailand in absentia.  Patricia Jones and Lois Van Cleve, Past Presidents, at the Global Partnership in Nursing Care at the Empress Hotel, Chiangmei, Thailand on August 10, 1999, made the presentation of membership.  This gesture provides the opportunity for a Sigma Theta Tau International initiation in the SDA School of Nursing in Thailand. 

Under the leadership of Vaneta Condon, President – 2000-2002, two competitive grants for students to attend the Fall Southern California Chapters’ Joint Research Conference were created.  Students submit a research paper that was previously presented in one of their nursing courses.  The Awards Committee makes the selection. 

Sensitive to the economic status of Gamma Alpha’s members providing mission service in foreign lands, Dr. Condon initiated sponsorship of nursing journals to SDA Schools of Nursing in Jamaica and the Philippines.

In keeping with the organization’s goal to recognize excellence, Excellence in Nursing Education, and Student Scholarship and Leadership Awards were created and initiated under the leadership of Jan Nick, President – 2002-2004.  In addition, Gamma Alpha Chapter voted a commitment of $20,000 over the next ten years as a Centennial Fellow of LLUSN.  Dr. Nick also initiated a web site for the chapter and appointed Richard Cho, a chapter member as webmaster.  Richard served the chapter in this role for six years. Other accomplishments were the funding of membership renewal for GA members in Brazil, Thailand, Jamaica and Hong Kong; continuing gifting nursing journal subscriptions for two International SDA nursing programs and supporting a project for sending personal grooming items to nurses in Iraq.

Under the leadership of Sofia Puerto, President 2004 – 2006, a Spirit of Philanthropy Award was presented to Gamma Alpha at the 38th Biennial Convention at the Chapter Awards Breakfast in the Marriott Hotel, Indianapolis, Indiana on November 16, 2005.  This award recognized the chapter’s outreach to its members providing mission service in foreign countries through annual membership dues, nursing journal subscriptions for SDA Schools of Nursing in two countries, Jamaica and the Philippines, personal hygiene items to nurses in Iraq, Centennial Fellow contribution to LLUSN, and member’s contributions to upgrading nurses and nursing education in foreign countries. Voted to mark the charter of the Gamma Alpha chapter with a paver in the University’s Centennial Pathway project.  Also supported the continuation of project to send personal items to nurses in Iraq.

Sylvia Stewart, President 2006-2008  focused her leadership on transitioning Gamma Alpha Chapter’s organization to the structural changes made by International.  These changes required much communication with officers to interpret role and responsibility changes to meet the needs of the chapter with International‘s mission and vision.

Eva Miller, President 2008-2010 authored a Policy and Procedure Manual, lead out in the development of the chapter’s first Strategic Plan, initiated a Friend of Nursing Award and initiated recording for International’s Chapter Key Award.  Organized community outreach activities were initiated with the leadership of Dr. Ellen D’Errico, Vice President 2008-2009. These included “Believe and Walk” sponsored by Stater Brothers Charities and Inland Women Fighting Cancer, decorating a Rose Parade Float, and “Food, Film & Fellowship night discussions was started and continued the following year with the leadership of Carolyn Davidson, Vice President 2009-2010  Dr. Huy Sovath, Dean of University of Health Science in Phoom Penh, Cambodia, was inducted and Dr. Patricia Jones presented his membership certificate with a picture frame from Gamma Alpha Chapter while in his country in the fall of 2009.

Ellen D’Errico, President 2010 - 2012 continued leadership in supporting community outreach adding the International community with the Osaka, Japan Project introducing nursing students from The Jekei College to American nursing. This 3-day event hosted by our chapter served as a fundraiser and netted the chapter $6000. Improving chapter communications and student outreach was an important focus. The Gamma Alpha Chapter Newsletter was re-activated producing 12 e-newsletters, monthly STTI Connections news updates on chapter activities, and a Gamma Alpha Chapter Facebook page was inaugurated. A “Getting to Know Us” table during orientation week, a “Lunch and Learn” seminar on Behavior Interviewing, and Gamma Alpha Chapter Invitational Tea were student outreach activities. The chapter sponsored four students to attend Region 2 “Nursing Odyssey” events. The chapter was presented with its first Chapter Key Award at the 41st Biennial Conference in Grapevine, Texas October 2011. Region 2 applied for and received its first ever “Regional Excellence Award.”

Dorothy Forde, President 2012 - 2014 (information forthcoming)

Updated :   08/26/2014