Lane health professions instructor Jeanne Harcleroad began working at Lane in 1974.
It was the year Barbara Streisand topped the charts with “The Way We Were.” Stephen King published his first book, Carrie, and American president Richard Nixon resigned from office.
Harcleroad remembers the limited career choices available to women when she left high school in 1964 — teaching or nursing were the main options. She chose nursing and got her nursing diploma in Minnesota, where she grew up. Later, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Iowa and her master’s degree in California.
Lane has changed in some ways over the years, but not in others, she said.
There was ample parking at the college in those days, unlike now, when finding a parking space can be challenging. Harcleroad said nursing students asked fewer questions in the past. Now, they are more confident and inquiring. Also, they wore starched uniforms instead of the scrubs they wear now.
Lane has consistently attracted dedicated high-caliber teachers, Harcleroad said, because Oregon offers a great lifestyle and all Lane presidents during her time at the college have been supportive of faculty members doing their own thing.
The Lane nursing program has enjoyed national recognition over the years. Nursing itself has changed a lot, however.
Nurses have far more responsibility these days. They are leaders who are constantly required to make important decisions. They need to be independent thinkers with intervention and teamwork skills. Technical skills play an increasingly important role as well.
Harcleroad teaches nursing at Lane, as well as at the Sacred Heart medical centers in Eugene and Springfield. She has been the nursing program director twice during her time at the college. However, she went back to teaching because she missed interacting with students.
“Students keep me young,” Harcleroad said. “I enjoy their passion, optimism and enthusiasm. They are wonderful to be around.”
Nursing is a tough program to get into. There are a lot of applicants. Motivation, self-confidence and a strong interest in the profession are prerequisites for selection.
“I love my students. I really do,” Harcleroad said.
Making a difference in their lives is what motivates her.
“When a recent graduate said to me ‘you are the reason I stayed in the program,’ it meant a lot to me,” Harcleroad said. “I asked her what I had done, and she said that I always took the time to listen to her.”
Harcleroad hears from past students from all over the world, and many of them are now colleagues in the hospitals where she continues to teach.
Mental health is an area of particular interest to Harcleroad. For example, she said people are often afraid of those with schizophrenia, but people with the disease are even more afraid.
In cases where there has been trauma, she said, damaging psychological consequences are far less when there’s support immediately following a traumatic incident.
Harcleroad believes that the mind plays an important role in healing. People with a positive attitude recover more quickly.
She loves animals and provides a home for dogs and cats who have been rescued from difficult situations. She takes in big dogs because they are difficult to place. Right now, she has Murphy, a Saint Bernard, and Blue, a Neapolitan mastiff.
Harcleroad said that when she started at Lane, she had no idea she’d still be here 40 years later. She loves her work and has no plans to retire.