Endowed student award memorializes volunteer leader Amy Dean

Bernie Davitto and his late wife, Amy Dean

Amy Dean’s energetic leadership threaded through her life, from her many volunteer pursuits to her career as a social worker, educator and advocate for education reform.

She threw herself into helping her community despite health ailments that might have stopped a less-committed leader.

“She was the bravest person I ever met,” remembered her husband, Bernie Davitto. “She had physical challenges all her life, but she never allowed them to get in the way of her accomplishments.”

When Dean passed away in May 2011 at the age of 60, Davitto wanted to find a fitting way to memorialize his late wife’s bravery and leadership.

“I felt that she needed to be recognized for that courage and for what she did for her community,” Davitto said.

Dean was a volunteer with Rotary International and Leadership California, and she chaired UC Davis Health’s Leadership Council, a group of health system supporters that she and Davitto joined in 2005. A social worker by training, she taught at New Mexico State University and California State University, Chico, before working in Sacramento for several legislators. Dean, Davitto and their close friend Charles Carter later co-founded Alliance for Education Solutions, a Sacramento-based non-profit organization focused on education reform.

When some friends floated the idea of creating a scholarship in Dean’s name, Davitto realized the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, with its vision to transform health care through nursing education, research and leadership, would be an apt place to establish a memorial fund. Davitto took the initiative and established an endowed award, the Amy T. Dean Courage Award, at the school in memory of his late wife.

“I felt that she needed to be recognized for that courage and for what she did for her community." 

—Bernie Davitto, UC Davis Health Leadership Council member

The gift was prompted by the remarkable work of UC Davis Health nurses that Davitto observed during Dean’s final weeks.

“What the nurses did over her last weeks will warm my heart forever,” he said. “For them, it was just natural. The more of those nurses we have, the better off patients are going to be, by a long shot.”

The endowed award will support School of Nursing students who are committed to research or clinical practice regarding end-of-life issues, and who have overcome significant obstacles to pursue their graduate studies.

The School of Nursing, with its master’s-degree and doctoral program in Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership, is educating the nurse leaders of tomorrow—nurses who will become educators, researchers and leaders who promote health, advance quality of care and shape policy.

Davitto believes in the school’s vision, and wants to see empowered nurses become full partners in the delivery of quality health care.

 “If the scholarship can help a few students become the kind of nurses and nurse leaders that I witnessed, it will be a pleasure to have Amy’s name associated with them,” Davitto said. “Amy deserves to be remembered well into the future.”