Lehr presented highest alumni service award, with $25,000

sally lehr

Emory University President James Wagner presents Sally Lehr with the Turman Award's "bell cow." The late J. Pollard Turman, a university trustee for more than 30 years, gave the nickname to outstanding leaders.

According to Sally Lehr 65N 76MN, "service" to her alma mater isn't a job or even a responsibility.

“It’s just something I’ve enjoyed doing,” says Lehr, clinical associate professor of nursing. “I’ve been with a group of people I like working with, and what I have done, I’ve enjoyed. I didn’t feel like I was ‘giving’ anything.” In truth, Lehr has given Emory a great deal—as a student, alumna, and faculty member.

At a ceremony in the Miller-Ward Alumni House in March, Lehr was rewarded for that nearly 50 years of giving to Emory with the Turman Award, the university’s highest honor for alumni service.

The award, established in 1998 and presented by the Emory Alumni Association, is named for J. Pollard Turman 34C 36L 73H, a university trustee for more than 30 years. It recognizes Emory alumni who have made outstanding contributions of time, expertise, and leadership to Emory. Lehr is the first graduate of the nursing school and the first faculty member to receive the award. The ceremony honoring Lehr drew more than 160 attendees, the most ever.

“I’ve really found a place to call home,” Lehr told the ceremony’s audience. Shortly after receiving her master’s, Lehr was encouraged by her mentor, then-professor Rose Dilday 79N, to apply for an open teaching position. She got it and has served on the faculty (as well as in private practice) ever since.


"As a teacher and as an alumna, on campus and off, Sally Lehr’s service to her community has been invaluable and transforming."

—President James Wagner


The honor includes a glass “bell cow” (Turman’s personal nickname for outstanding leaders) and a $25,000 donation from the Tull Foundation to be pledged to the Emory school, unit, or program of the recipient’s choice. Lehr said she plans to donate the award to the nursing school and the Emory Winship Cancer Institute.

Lehr’s alumni engagement began in the mid-1970s, when she helped re-form the Nurses Alumni Association Board. She has served on the board ever since, and her leadership includes multiple terms as its president, a role she currently fulfills. University-wide, Lehr has served a three-year term on the Emory Alumni Board, and she has been a memberof the nursing school faculty for 32 years.

Lehr’s service has expanded beyond campus. In 1964, while still an undergraduate, she helped found the Emory chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International, the honor society for nursing, and she has been involved ever since. Five years ago the chapter began participating in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk, a national fund-raiser for Alzheimer’s research. For the past three years, the Emory chapter has won the award for most money raised.

“As a teacher and as an alumna, on campus and off, Sally Lehr’s service to her community has been invaluable and transforming,” said Emory President James Wagner, upon presenting the award. “She has been and continues to be a role model for generations.”

—Eric Rangus, director of communications
for Emory Alumni Association

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spring cover 2009