Reflections on the past, hope for the future

Katharine J. Densford International Center for Nursing Leadership

November 9, 2020

Dan Pesut

It has been an honor and privilege to serve as director of the Katharine J. Densford International Center for Nursing Leadership and be graced with the Katharine R. and C. Walton Lillehei Chair in Nursing Leadership. I will retire in January 2021 after a 45-year career in nursing. The last eight years have been the greatest because of my experiences at the University of Minnesota working with the faculty and staff in the School of Nursing. As I reflect on my time at the center, I recall wanting to learn as much as I could about Katharine J. Densford so the curriculum, programs, conferences, services and consultations developed by the center would reflect and honor her generative philosophy, life and legacy.

Early on, I learned Katharine Densford believed in character, competence and healthy communities. She believed those who aspire to a nursing career are dedicated to a purpose, and are imaginative, daring and have initiative. She also believed nurses should make the most of their abilities and talents. Nurses ought to have a high sense of responsibility, foresight and a cooperative spirit. Nurses ought to have deep understanding and sympathy, the ability to think and come to conclusions. Nurses ought to establish close personal relationships and realize the importance of leading as well as the value of following. Nurses should respect and use democratic principles to support group work dedicated to a greater community and social good. Nurses ought to keep an eye on the future, be intellectually curious, possess an eager mind, be dedicated to, and work consciously toward, fuller international understanding of nursing contributions to the health of local and global communities.

All my teaching, scholarship and service contributions and activities of the center over the past eight years have been influenced by the values, beliefs and legacy espoused by Katharine J. Densford. The center has developed nursing leadership courses and offered workshops on professional resilience. Our programs have championed strengths and values-based leadership, and we have sponsored creative, wisdom and policy dialogues. We have engaged community partners in consideration of next system possibilities and supported horizon scanning and innovation workshops. We have consulted with local, regional, national and international nursing organizations. The Densford Center Foresight Leadership initiative ( will live on and stimulate future literacy development of nurses and health professionals. Attention to foresight leadership ensures hope for the future. Join the community of interest ( and continue to learn, dialogue and create the future of nursing and health care.