Dr. Peggy Ingram Veeser has been working in higher education for 35 years and counting, although you wouldn’t guess it judging from her tireless work ethic and positive energy in and out of the classroom. She is a professor and director of the Christian Brothers University nursing program and a family nurse practitioner. She gives back to the community she loves by empowering her C BU nursing students through education while finding new and unique ways for the program she started to remain relevant in the ever-changing landscape of higher education.
Guided by the principle set forth by Nelson Mandela that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” we are very fortunate she’s made it her mission to give generations of students the tools to make positive changes in their lives and in our city through her calling. Please join us in welcoming today’s FACE of Memphis!
What are your earliest childhood memories of growing up in Memphis?
Probably that everything was so close by and that we walked everywhere. We lived in Midtown on Peabody, and my grandparents were around the corner on Carr. My best friends lived in the neighborhood, our school was on Union, our church on Peabody, and my dad was a doctor at the Campbell Clinic on Madison Ave. A big thing was to ride the bus downtown with friends to go shopping at Goldsmith’s, Levy’s, Lowenstein’s, and Gerber’s or to a movie.
Did your father’s profession as a doctor lead you toward a career in healthcare?
Yes, perhaps, that connection made me more comfortable with the medical world. I wanted to go to college at Vanderbilt University, and at that time, nursing was as good a major as anything else. It is funny how what seems like a chance decision can shape your life.
Fast forward to 2008. Didn’t you retire?
I did retire from University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Nursing after 30 years from a variety of positions such as tenured professor, associate dean and founder and director of University Health Services, the campus student health service. I consulted after that and CBU hired me to help set up their first health science program for registered nurses seeking a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree (BSN). I was asked to be director, and here I am in an encore full-time position. I still think I have something to offer in this older, wiser time of my life.
Tell our readers what is unique about the program you started.
CBU has a nursing program for registered nurses from associate degree or diploma programs who are seeking a BSN. A BSN prepares them for graduate school, as well as new roles and opportunities in their nursing careers. In the world of exclusively online programs, our nursing program is a mix of online and face-to-face classes one evening a week, tailored to the working nurse. We offer faith-based opportunities with Church Health Center and Methodist Congregational Health Network as well as biannual mission trips with the West Tennessee Haiti Partnership.
We have many first generation college students who are the wage earners and centers for their families and friends. These are busy people who value education enough to seek a higher degree. These students are a joy to teach and I hope they see the world a little differently after graduation.
Is there a Thanksgiving tradition you are most looking forward to?
Having our family together—including friends and extended family—for a long afternoon visit and taking time to feel the gratitude for this life and the life of others. It is a great day to relax and unplug and enjoy each other’s company and conversation. And of course, great food!
Is there a local or national charity that you strongly believe in?
My middle sister and best friend, Cathy Doyle, died of lung cancer two years ago. I have lost so many friends to this awful disease. Breast cancer has gotten really great attention and research funding. I hope that lung cancer can get the same attention one day.
What are your special interests and hobbies?
I like exercising with a regular group—it is great support and connection. I love the practice of yoga and tai chi and try to walk to enjoy the beauty of outside every day. I am an ardent reader and a world-class traveler.
Also, when I retired from UTHSC, I started taking art classes with Marilyn Wannamaker at the Botanic Gardens. Her classes are so much fun, and she accepted me for who I was and encouraged me to shift from using my left brain to finding more fun in right-brain activities. I prefer mixed media and come up with some strange and interesting pieces of art. It is great fun to create new things!
If you could change one thing about Memphis, what would it be?
I have lived by this quote by Dr. Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
I have groups of friends who are Memphis community leaders who live this premise every day, and we nurture each other in our personal and professional growth. Let’s encourage Memphians to see the world from the perspective of love, not fear.
Favorite travel destination(s)?
I am totally open to exploring the world, but our regular visits are to San Francisco to see my husband’s children and grandchildren and to our condo in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
What books are on your bedside table?
I have a Kindle full of over 100 books so I am ready to go at any time. I still love to hold and mark up a book I am reading so I have those, too. Right now—Words Can Change Your Brain by Newberg and Waldman and many issues of The Sun, a provocative ad-free monthly American magazine of essays, interviews, short stories, poems and photography.
Your career has included many leadership roles and notable accomplishments. Looking back, what are you are most proud of in your life?
My children who are truly terrific people and great citizens—Mary Catherine Tagg, who lives and works in downtown Memphis at LEO Events and George Canale Tagg, Jr., who is an attorney and regional affairs officer in the Department of State in Washington, DC. My heart bursts with pride for what fine people they are. And my dear husband—Dr. Bill Veeser—who is always the wind beneath my wings.
Thank you, Peggy, for these inspiring highlights, today!
And thank you to photographer/web designer Keith Montgomery for the wonderful images of Peggy.