Six named endowed chairs, professors

September 16, 2022

Endowed Chairs

The School of Nursing announced the appointment of six endowed chairs and professors. Clinical Professor Mary Benbenek, PhD, APRN, FNP-BC, CPNP-PC, FAANP, FNAP, Clinical Professor Cheri Friedrich, DNP, APRN, CPNP-PC, IBCLC, FNAP, Professor Susan O’Conner-Von, PhD, RN-BC, CNE, FNAP, and Clinical Professor Judith Pechacek, DNP, RN, CENP, were named as Katherine R. & C. Walton Lillehei Chairs in Nursing Leadership. Professor Jenna Marquard, PhD, was named Cora Meidl Siehl Chair in Nursing Research for Improved Patient Care. Associate Professor Erica Schorr, PhD, BSBA, RN, FAHA, was named a School of Nursing Foundation Research Professor.

In addition to providing faculty with the resources necessary to propel their research and innovations, endowed chairs and professorships are essential for recruiting and retaining the highest-quality scholars. They help create an academic environment that attracts the best students by giving them access to key learning, often years before it appears in textbooks.


Katherine R. & C. Walton Lillehei Chair in Nursing Leadership

The Katherine R. & C. Walton Lillehei Chair in Nursing Leadership was created in 2001 in appreciation for the role the University played in their lives and in the belief that education holds a society together. It is named after Katherine R. Lillehei, a nursing student in the 1940s and former School of Nursing Foundation member, and her husband C. Walton, a renowned Minnesota physician and pioneer of open-heart surgery.

Clinical Professor Mary Benbenek

Benbenek is a recognized nurse leader, APRN clinical expert and global health champion. She is the first nurse practitioner to be appointed to the Drug Formulary Committee at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). She has served on MDH committees, local professional organization boards and national nurse practitioner organization projects. She has designed and implemented global partnerships and has worked to enlighten educational programs on global perspectives. She is a fellow in the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and the National Academies of Practice.

Clinical Professor Cheri Friedrich

Friedrich is the specialty coordinator for the pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) primary care track and the co-creator and co-director of the Center for Interprofessional Health. She is a national leader in developing innovative interprofessional health education approaches to support learners in interprofessional competency advancement. She led the development and implementation of interprofessional health care escape rooms, developed an innovative virtual interprofessional education (IPE) curriculum, and co-developed a continuing education series for clinical preceptors. Friedrich continues to support IPE as a practicing PNP and preceptor in a Federally Qualified Health Center. She is also a fellow of the National Academies of Practice and will be inducted into the American Academy of Nursing in October 2022.

Professor Susan O’Conner-Von

O’Conner-Von advances interprofessional health care through her program of research, teaching and service activities with a focus on holistic pain and palliative care. In the classroom, her personalized involvement with her students ignites passion for nursing research, professional development and life-long learning. She has received numerous awards recognizing her accomplishments, most recently her induction into the University of Minnesota Academy of Distinguished Teachers and the Rush University Nurses Alumni Association Excellence in Practice Award. She was on staff at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul for 33 years.


Clinical Professor Judith Pechacek, DNP, RN, CENP, is an innovative educator, quality scholar and academic program leader with a sustained national impact on education specific to executive leadership, quality, safety and interprofessional practice. She is deeply committed to an inclusive, diverse and equitable educational environment and experience for students. As the assistant dean of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program (DNP), she leveraged innovative quality improvement initiatives, teaching strategies and faculty support to elevate the DNP program to No.7 in the 2023 U.S. News & World Report, Best Nursing Schools. In addition, Pechacek is a coach and mentor for both emerging and experienced leaders who seek to improve their leadership impact.

Cora Meidl Siehl Chair in Nursing Research for Improved Patient Care

The Cora Meidl Siehl Chair in Nursing Research for Improved Patient Care was established in 1982 to celebrate the legacy of Siehl, a Class of 1931 graduate, and was a cornerstone in the creation of the school’s doctoral program. It was among the first endowed chairs in schools of nursing to focus on research.

Professor Jenna Marquard

Marquard is chair of the Population Health and Systems Cooperative. She uses her background in industrial engineering, and collaborations with nurses, to improve the design of technologies used by nurses and patients. She is committed to advancing nursing science by bringing together researchers and practitioners from diverse disciplines. She is also committed to teaching nursing students a broad set of engineering tools so they can make a significant impact on technology design. She has partnered with nurses on numerous grants funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and National Science Foundation.

School of Nursing Foundation Research Professorship

The School of Nursing Foundation Research Professorship was established in 2009 by supporters of the University of Minnesota to advance nursing science.

Associate Professor Erica Schorr

Schorr chairs the School of Nursing Research Committee. She is also a Fellow of the American Heart Association (AHA), chair and first-author of an AHA Scientific Statement on using mobile health technologies for secondary cardiovascular disease prevention in older adults, and co-author of an AHA scientific statement on physical activity as a critical component of first-line treatment for elevated blood pressure or cholesterol. Through national and international interdisciplinary collaborations, she has tested approaches that incorporate mobile health technologies to increase levels of physical activity, decrease sedentary time, improve medication adherence and enhance quality of life. 

Categories: School News


Media Contacts

Steve Rudolph
School of Nursing