Shirley S. Chater


Honorary Degree (1996)
Doctor of Science
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: Myles Brand


Shirley S. Chater, nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by Congress as Commissioner of Social Security in 1993, is a leader in health care education and administration. Known internationally for her impact on nursing education and on institutions of higher learning, for her role in health care, and for her work as a mentor to students and colleagues, Chater is clearly a woman of our time.

A native of Pennsylvania, Chater received her BS from the University of Pennsylvania in 1956. She obtained an MS from the University of California, San Francisco in 1960, and earned her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964. Within five years she had advanced to the rank of full professor, teaching for the School of Nursing at UC San Francisco and for the School of Education at UC Berkeley. Further, she was instrumental in establishing the first doctoral program in nursing in the United States at the University of California, San Francisco.

Chater has served in many leadership positions throughout her career, among them the positions of assistant vice chancellor, and later, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of California, San Francisco (1974-82); and president of Texas Women's University (1986-93). She was the first woman to be an assistant vice chancellor or a vice chancellor within the University of California system. She has also served as a senior associate with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges and as a council associate with the American Council on Education. She is a member of the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine.

Author and co-author of six books and 39 articles, Chater has published timely articles such as "Student, Worker, Mom: On Campus, In Need," as well as her seminal REsearch in Nursing, a series of teaching videocassettes produced in 1975 and used by most programs of higher education in nursing. In 1976 she published Understanding Research in Nursing for the World Health Organization. It was translated into French that same year. "Dr. Chater's early influence on research in nursing cannot be underestimated," writes Phyllis N. Stern, professor and chair of the Department of Parent-Child Nursing at the IUPUI School of Nursing. "This work has inspired generations of nursing researchers who have followed her."

Chater's accomplishments at Texas Women's University serve as an example of her effectiveness as a leader. Under her direction, Texas Women's University maintained the highest minority enrollments in the Texas state system, instituted a nationally recognized program for single mothers and children, launched a clinic to provide health care to low-income families, and supported a program to provide prenatal care to Hispanic women. Chater worked with Indiana colleagues to establish a chapter of Sigma Theta Tau at the University of California, San Francisco. Over the years, she has also provided consultation to a number of IUPUI faculty, particularly those involved with the Department of Parent-Child Nursing.

The Carnegie Foundation President Ernest L. Boyer has summed up Chater's impact in this way: "There are few, if any, individuals I've encountered who are more dedicated to the larger purposes of education and service as well. Chater is a truly remarkable educator who knew how to deal courageously and wisely with the responsibilities of administration but never lost sight that, in the end, it's service to students that matters most."