Sharon Anne Dwyer, 44, nurse, instructor at Villa Julie College

December 01, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Sharon Anne Dwyer, a teacher, pediatrics nurse and nursing instructor at Villa Julie College who was killed in the Thanksgiving Day crash of a small plane near Cape Cod, Mass., was remembered yesterday by friends and colleagues as the "embodiment of compassion and caring for others."

Ms. Dwyer, 44, a Rodgers Forge resident, was an assistant professor of nursing at Villa Julie College, where she had been a faculty member since 1991. In addition to her work at the Baltimore County college, she was also a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Through a course, "Community Health and Nursing Care of Aging Adults," which Ms. Dwyer co-taught with Terry Weller, students went out of the classroom and into the inner city, where they worked with the homeless.

"This wasn't a class that she taught in a vacuum. She showed the students how to care for homeless women and children, and her work took them to My Sister's Place, Christopher's Place and Bea Gaddy's," Mrs. Weller, a longtime friend, said yesterday.

"She was so committed to community service that she always went that one step beyond and asked her students, 'What can we do to improve the health care of the homeless who have no resources?' " Mrs. Weller said.

Her inspiration led her students to create and furnish an examining and health counseling room at Bea Gaddy's Women and Children Center Inc. on North Collington Avenue.

"She was always the catalyst. She was consumed by her causes, and she always gave 100 percent until she achieved her goals," Mrs. Weller said.

Last year, Ms. Dwyer organized and help feed 300 homeless people Thanksgiving dinner at Christopher's Place.

She was known as a teacher who had the innate gift of being able to teach compassion and articulate the needs of others. She did this, according to Mrs. Weller, because she was a role model who had a profound influence on her students.

"It was a charismatic gift that she so freely shared with everyone," Mrs. Weller said.

Gina M. Norton, a senior at Villa Julie who lives in Owings Mills, said, "Everyone is just devastated by her death." Ms. Norton recalled Ms. Dwyer's boundless enthusiasm and interest in others.

"She'd greet the students with a boisterous, 'How ya doin',' and a big radiant smile," Ms. Norton said.

"She brought out the best in us through her message: 'I'm taking you out of your comfort zone. Think globally and act locally, and go for it because you have nothing to lose,' " she said.

"She stressed that nursing was more than changing a dressing or giving someone medication, that it was offering support. 'Make eye contact. Let them know that you care. Give the patient an extra smile or a hug -- leave a little piece of you with them. If you can't do that, then you shouldn't be a nurse.' "

Said Judith Feustle, chairman of the nursing division at Villa Julie, "She was so creative, and as a member of the nursing curriculum committee, she was always trying to think of new ways to teach and improve the program. Her death is such a loss to our program. What I'll miss most about Sharon was that abundance of creative energy."

In the early 1980s, Ms. Dwyer was professor of nursing at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland where she was named Teacher of the Year. She was presented with the Christa McAuliffe Award, which honors the memory of the astronaut-teacher who perished in the 1986 Challenger explosion.

"She kept that plaque on the wall of her office with the inscription that read, 'You've touched the future you teach,' " Mrs. Weller said.

Sharon Anne Dwyer was born in Michigan City, Ind., and moved to Arnold as a young woman. A 1971 graduate of Archbishop Spalding High School, she earned her bachelor's degree in nursing from the University of Maryland in 1976 and a master's degree in nursing from the University of Virginia in 1981.

Ms. Dwyer began her nursing career in Utah and later worked as a floor nurse at Sinai Hospital. From 1988 until 1991, she was a kindergarten teacher at Park School in Brooklandville.

"She was always taking care of people, even when we we're growing up," said a sister, Kathy Stephens of Lookout Mountain, Ga.

"She was the oldest and was always picking us up when we fell down or hurt ourselves. She always went out of her way to make people happy and comfortable."

Ms. Dwyer retained a lifelong interest in physical fitness. As a triathlete, she participated in physically taxing endurance events that combine running, swimming and bicycling. Also an avid hiker, she once hiked into the Grand Canyon where she camped alone for a week.

Family members said that she found great happiness hiking in the mountains.

"She was brave, adventuresome and courageous," said her sister.

Her brother-in-law, Joseph Stephens, described her as a "very strong, dynamic person who was a natural leader and teacher."

Ms. Dwyer's 1981 marriage to Brian Whaley ended in divorce.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church, 5500 York Road in Govans.

She is survived by a son, Mark Whaley; two daughters, Lauren Whaley and Anna Whaley, all at home; her father, Edward J. Dwyer Sr. of Sherwood Forest; a brother, Edward J. "Ned" Dwyer Jr. of Severna Park; and two other sisters, Sheila Dwyer of Elkridge and Mary Siegler of North Potomac.

Pub Date: 12/01/97

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