COLUMBUS, Miss.-- The Mississippi Board of Nursing Executive Director Phyllis Polk Johnson addressed Mississippi University for Women graduates at today’s commencement.

Johnson began by drawing inspiration from Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady of the United States 1933-1945. Quoting Roosevelt, Johnson said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’”

She emphasized that each new life experience is an opportunity to better one’s self.

“I gain confidence when I have completed a task and I’ve done it to the best of my ability. Those wins remind me that I can take the next thing that comes along,” explained Johnson.

She reminded the soon-to-be graduates that they have learned, earned and deserve to be celebrated for completing, “this giant leap.”

While students might have learned technical terms and strategies that may propel them to the top of their profession, Johnson hoped most of all that they learned to care.

She added, “Caring educators create better learning environments. Caring healthcare professionals create better healthcare outcomes. Caring business leaders create better economics in which to live.  Caring political leaders create better living environments for our families.”

Johnson continued with the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Not everybody can be famous. But everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service…”

In closing, Johnson advised the graduates, “Whatever your chosen profession is--do it to the best of your ability. Serve those people in your charge. Serve them with a joyous heart and a willing spirit. Love what you do, and you will never work a day in your life. Serve your community.”   

A native of Carthage, Johnson attended South Leake High School in Walnut Grove, where she graduated as salutatorian of her class. She received her bachelor of science of nursing, graduating cum laude from The W. She also earned her master of science in nursing degree from The W. She attended Jackson State University, earning her master of science degree in biology with an emphasis in genetics and molecular biology.

Johnson is a member of several professional organizations, including the Mississippi Association of Nurse Practitioners, Mississippi Nurses Association, American Nurses Association and Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society.

She served on the Licensure Compact Executive Committee Board of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.  In July 2018, she was selected as one of the 50 Leading Business Women in the state of Mississippi by the Mississippi Business Journal. This culminated in her being selected as the 2019 Mississippi Business Journal Business Woman of the Year in February 2019. In 2013, she retired from the United States Navy Reserves at the rank of commander.  She is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., where she is active in the Jackson Mississippi Alumnae Chapter.

Approximately 379 candidates applied for August graduation. Conferring of degrees for graduates of the College of Arts, Sciences and Education, the College of Business and Professional Studies and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences began at 2 p.m. in Rent Auditorium, Whitfield Hall.

August 9, 2019
Contact: Tyler Wheat
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