The road to Ron Norby’s doctorate in nursing practice has been long but significant. The retired health care executive had always planned on earning his doctorate — but life, he explains, got in the way.
But the desire and will never faded. This month, the former nurse, administrator and now educator will finally fulfill that long-ago desire. For his achievements and dedication to learning, Norby has been honored with the Betty Robertson Award by Cal State Fullerton’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The award is named for one of OLLI’s founders and recognizes the achievements of an older graduate who values and represents lifelong learning.
Cal State Fullerton’s School of Nursing is one of the most nurturing, collegial programs. From the beginning I have always felt that the faculty were there for myself and my fellow students to help us achieve academic success. — Ron Norby
Norby served 29 years with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, with only a short respite when he enlisted with the Navy and served nearly three years during the Vietnam War.
Following his graduation with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, Norby began as an operating room and trauma nurse at what is now the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston. He advanced to the position of nurse executive before his military service.
Afterward, Norby’s career took him from Chicago to San Diego and Washington, D.C., then back to California, with increasingly complex assignments. He eventually became the director of the VA Medical Center in Long Beach, then ended his VA career as director of the VA Desert Pacific Healthcare Network, overseeing five large healthcare systems in California and Nevada.
“My career taught me many things, but perhaps a central theme has been knowing that there was always more to know, more to understand,” says Norby. “My career trajectory offered me many opportunities for personal and professional growth. “
With each new challenge, Norby says, he was faced with the need to attain new knowledge “and I was stimulated to seek it.”
After retirement he considered the opportunity for travel and spending time with friends, but instead he started a second career in teaching. Norby now teaches and directs the graduate program in nursing and health systems executive management at Cal State Long Beach.
“I realized that if I wanted to stay in academe, I had to finish my doctorate,” Norby explains. “I believe that by undertaking my doctoral study, I am a much better educator. Just being engaged in doctoral study at the same time I was teaching brought new rigor to my teaching and higher levels of expectation for my students.”
He enrolled in the Southern California CSU Doctor of Nursing Practice Program Consortium. The pilot program — with faculty from Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach and Los Angeles — was successful. Last fall, Gov. Jerry Brown signed an Assembly bill allowing all CSU campuses to establish such programs.
“Being part of the consortium program was great as it gave me an opportunity to work with the faculty at all three campuses,” he says. “The doctoral education program is very rigorous but also very rewarding because you can see the fruits of your learning.
“Cal State Fullerton’s School of Nursing is one of the most nurturing, collegial programs,” Norby says. “From the beginning I have always felt that the faculty were there for myself and my fellow students to help us achieve academic success. The expectation was extremely high but it paid off.”
Norby will be among doctoral candidates hooded during Cal State Fullerton’s all-university commencement ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Friday, May 18, on the intramural field north of the Titan Gym. He will then take part in the nursing ceremony at approximately 7 p.m. on the Engineering and Computer Science Lawn.