Dessie Levy - Ph.D, RN and First Black dean of nursing in Wisconsin
North Division and Washington High School
Dessie Levy is a proud Washington High School Alumna, Class of 1979. She is an accomplished (retired) nurse, and educator. She is currently an Assistant Professor for the Clinical Translational Science Institute at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Dessie is a proud MPS graduate and a resident of Milwaukee's 53206. She attended North Division High School during her freshman year where she was exposed to the "best educators/mentors and honorary parents - Robert Fisher, Mr. Jack Carroll, Ms. Landry, Ms Emma Fenceroy - all of whom were instrumental in raising my interest in science and math; before STEM. From sophomore year to graduation, I was sent to Washington High School as one of the many students from the 'old North' that had to leave the building in order for the building that is standing today to be built." Her years at Washington High School continued with educators that took her under their wings because they often stated that "I was going to do something special." Dessie stated that there were a number of teachers that weren't afraid to scold her as well as call her parents as needed - Ms. Lizzie Sims, Mr. Albert Brown, Ms Diane McNally and principal Jerome Brandl, all of whom supported her through the ACT and SAT's. In doing so, she successfully had the opportunity to attend the university of her choice.
Ms. Levy, in an interview with Fox6 News stated "An old Negro spiritual song by Mahalia Jackson says that if I could help somebody along the way, my living will not be in vain and that's a mantra of mine." Ms. Levy has her Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Leadership and Administration from Cardinal Stritch University and was the Dean of Health Sciences at the Milwaukee Area Technical College, and is currently the Director of the True Love Outreach Center. "I did not set out to be Dr. Levy. I wanted to be a nurse."
"I think the work over the years has really set a precedence in my life in terms of what I set out to accomplish." Dessie grew up in Milwaukee on 19th street and Center, her inspiration came from a Black nurse who helped take care of her while spending years in and out of the hospital. She was born with a bone defect of her lower extremities of her feet. Nevertheless, she prevailed and graduated with her nursing diploma from Deaconess Hospital in Milwaukee, one of only two Black nurses in the class. Throughout her career, she worked at the VA Hospital and the Burn Unit at Columbia St. Mary's.
In 2005, she was hired as the first Black dean of nursing in Wisconsin at Milwaukee Area Technical College, MATC. "It's a monumental accomplishment for me personally, but for the profession itself, I was a little bit taken aback for our state to be so far behind in opening the door." It is safe to say that the person most proud of her is her husband of 39 years, Garry Levy, who stated that, "I'm truly blessed to just be a part of her life."
Dessie is no stranger to being the first and sometimes only Black nurse in certain circles. She understands the importance of representation and has made it her goal to give back to her community, some of which can be seen through her church, True Love Missionary Baptist. Mrs. Levy agrees that representation matters and thinks more Black nurses are needed in the health care industry. She'd also like to see more people of color on the administrative side and in decision-making roles.
Dessie is appreciative of the village of individuals that poured their support and prayers into her life. There were many who that said to a 16-year old Dessie, "You can be anything you want to be. You just have to apply yourself." That included her parents who made sure that they were able to have a strong supportive household and family nucleus. "I thank God for all the professionals (nursing and non-nursing) that came before me. My mission continues to be to "pay-it-forward" by mentoring others toward reaching their dreams."
On, February 19, 2021, President Joe Biden visited Milwaukee and held a Town Hall meeting at the Pabst Theater. Dessie asked the president about his thoughts on the significant impact that COVID-19 has had on the Black community. "Less than 3% of Black people and less than 5% of Hispanics were vaccinated." Levy asked if this is a priority for the Biden administration and how will the disparities be addressed? The president said that it is a priority. He reminded everyone of the history of Blacks being used as guinea pigs for medical experiments over the last 50 to 100 years in America and why there is a concern about getting the vaccine.
An employee under Dessie Levy's leadership stated that Dessie is an ". . . exemplar of the profession. She consistently demonstrates interest in professional and personal development."
Washington High School Alumni Foundation: https://www.facebook.com/washingtonalumni
North Division High School Alumni Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/498230800234188
Are you an MPS Alum who is giving back to your community? Do you know of an MPS graduate who is making a difference in their community? Send information to the Alumni Hub; email@example.com