May 1 , 2006
BY Carol Pinto
Soon after Steve Ellwood was hired in 1983 as an educational media specialist, a sign was hung on the front door of the nursing school. It read: “Dean Wanted—No Academic Credentials Necessary.”
Nursing students put up the sign in protest after the head of the school resigned amid a cloud of controversy. The incident is the first of many moments that stand out in Ellwood’s memory and one of the few things he hasn’t photographed in 22 years at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.
Since then, Ellwood’s once-part-time role has evolved into assistant director of instructional technology. Essentially, he is a photographer, instructional-technology guru and walking nursing school historian rolled into one. He’s seen six deans come and go. Now, when deans from other schools visit, Ellwood is often their tour guide, answering their questions about the state-of-the-art building that opened on Clifton Road in 2001.
Like many nursing faculty, staff and alumni, Ellwood spent most of his career in the school’s previous building on Asbury Circle, now an annex of Emory Hospital. “It was a fortress-like place with hardly any windows,” Ellwood recalled. “But inside we had an atrium that only we could see. The school adopted the garden in the atrium and made it something beautiful.”
Styles and technology have changed greatly since Ellwood joined the school in the early 1980s; students then still wore blue smock dresses with white aprons and nursing caps. Methods for teaching have progressed as well.
“I’ve been a fly on the wall in the classroom, so I’ve seen how nursing instruction has changed,” he said. “For example, in a midwifery class, they would discuss cases, talk about mothers and deliveries and work out problems. They still do that today, [so] much of the content has not changed, just the way the information is presented. Of course some subjects, like genetics, have evolved a lot and now have a much bigger place in the curriculum.”
As an instructional technology manager, Ellwood supports teachers in the use of audiovisual equipment in the classroom. “The tools of the trade have changed. They used to be simple and straightforward, like blackboards and slide projectors,” Ellwood said. “Slide photography was my mainstay. I stopped counting when I reached 10,000 slides.”
Today, PowerPoint presentations and videos are the technology of choice for classroom teaching. Instructors also use interactive distance-learning technology to take advantage of experts in other places.
“It’s been shown that active learning methods are more effective with today’s students,” Ellwood said. “For example, we make video clips to get the students’ attention. Once engaged, they are more likely to hear and retain information. One of my ongoing challenges is keeping up with technology and helping teachers transition.”
Because of his photography skills, Ellwood maintains the school’s photo archive—physically and mentally. “Photography is still an important part of my job, but it has changed so much in the past 10 years,” he said. “In the old building, I had my own darkroom. But I had to give that up and switch over to digital photography when we moved into the new building.”
Just recently, he and the school’s communications director, Amy Comeau, combed through historical photos to use in displays celebrating the school’s 100th anniversary this year. “Amy was surprised that I knew so many of the faculty from way back. I showed her an old picture of Dr. Sally Lehr when she was the 1963 Sweetheart of Sigma Chi,” Ellwood said. “I could just imagine Sally later in the ’70s in her bell bottoms.”
“Steve is the most dependable, helpful person I have ever worked with,” said Lehr, a clinical assistant professor of adult and elder health. “Not only does he always come through, but each time a new issue arises, Steve always figures out a solution. I think every person who’s been part of the nursing school has much appreciation, fondness and respect for him.”
What has Ellwood enjoyed most about the nursing school? “I get a lot of energy from the ebb and flow of a college campus,” he said. “There are always new things happening. Moving into the new building gave us all a fresh start. I’ve always been around nurses—my mother was a nurse—so I feel comfortable here. And the thing I’ve liked the most is being a little part of the 20 [undergraduate] classes that have graduated during my time here. I am very proud of that.”
The feeling is mutual. The Nurses Alumni Association made Ellwood an honorary alumnus. He holds an Award of Distinction, the University’s highest honor for staff employees. Last fall, in front of the entire nursing school, Ellwood was presented with the School Life Award for his contributions to “the spirit and vitality of the school and all its constituents.” As head of the School Life Committee, Ellwood spearheaded a drive that raised $4,000 for the Tsunami Well Project. The nursing school administration more than matched the $1,300 contributed by students, staff and faculty to construct two hand-dug wells in Sri Lanka, one of the countries hardest hit by the December 2004 tsunami.
“Steve has a huge and open heart,” said Maureen Kelley, chair of family and community nursing. “I remember his awe when his children were born. I remember his great homemade apple pie at our Thanksgiving celebrations. He embodies caring. We just couldn’t do without him.”
This article first appeared in the Spring 2005 Emory Nursing and is reprinted with permission.