Carol Shelton among R.I. Women of the Year honorees

Carol Shelton
Carol Shelton, professor emeritus of nursing who retired from RIC in 2008 after 31 years, is being honored as one of six Rhode Island Women of the Year in an event on Oct. 8 at the Radisson Airport Hotel in Warwick. The award, presented by the Rhode Island Commission on Women, celebrates women in the state who have demonstrated long-term achievement in a variety of social service fields, as well as those committed to getting other women in the community recognized. Shelton is being recognized for her contributions to education.

Shelton began her nursing career after graduating from Salve Regina University in 1964, working as a public health nurse in neighborhood centers in Providence and Central Falls. As a member of the Visiting Nurses Association, a national network of home-care nursing agencies for the elderly and disabled, Shelton’s primary goal was to help lead those suffering from illness into a better state of health through guidance and assistance.

She recalls how in most cases, many people lacked adequate health care, health insurance and were dealing with issues of poverty like poor nutrition. Her concern for these emerging social issues motivated her to become involved with various social justice causes and organizations, including the Campaign to End Childhood Poverty alongside her husband Henry.

Shelton has also devoted her time to organizations like the R.I. Women’s Health Collective, which she called an “extraordinarily wonderful” advocacy group for women’s health issues that began in the 1970s but was later closed due to a lack of funding.

Her tenure in the education field started with teaching appointments at Salve Regina University and Howard University. At Rhode Island College, she focused on getting students interested in what they were learning, whether they were nursing majors in her Community and Public Health courses, non-majors that she taught in a women’s studies course or her Core 4 general education class on child-bearing and mothering.

“One of my goals was to create an environment for students to explore ideas that they were not exposed to before. My task wasn’t to pour knowledge into their brains as much as it was to expose them to material that would challenge their critical thinking in different issues,” she said.

Shelton received an MS from the University of Minnesota and a PhD from Brandeis University.

RIC President Nancy Carriuolo, who is also a board member of the R.I. Commission on Women, described her as “a role model for nursing faculty and for women in general.”

Added Carriuolo: “Carol is one of those extraordinary women who has devoted her life to caring for others, but seeks no recognition for her good works. She is a well-respected faculty member of the School of Nursing and has remained involved with the school even after her retirement in 2008. I am so proud of Dr. Carol Shelton and her well-deserved honor.”

Shelton said she felt privileged to have spent so many years at Rhode Island College working side by side with "fantastic" teachers, especially those in the school of nursing. “You just hope that you’ve made a difference in the lives of students, enabling them to become good practitioners and advocates in our society and in the health care system,” she said.

Other honorees for the Rhode Island Woman of the Year 2009 award include Lynn Ewart-Paine (science and technology), Kathleen Hittner (health), Beverly E. Najarian (trailblazer), state Sen. M. Teresa Paiva-Weed (public service) and Toby B. Simon (advocacy).