ECU College of Nursing welcomes 9 into Hall of Fame

The ECU College of Nursing welcomed nine new members to its Hall of Fame and honored a longtime faculty member as its 2022 Distinguished Alumni during its induction ceremony at the Hilton Greenville on Friday.

This year’s inductees included nursing education and research leaders from ECU and other prominent colleges and universities throughout the state, decorated military leaders, healthcare entrepreneurs and healthcare leaders at local, state and national levels.

Dr. Kamilah Williams,from left to right, Dr. Wanda Lancaster, Dr. Frances Thunberg D’Hoostelaere, Dr. Deborah Tyndall, Dr. Alta Andrews (2022 Distinguished Alumni Recipient), Col. Amalia DiVittorio, Dr. Julie Oehlert, Kathy Brinkley Turner, William P. Vurnakes were honored at the 2022 ECU College of Nursing Hall of Fame ceremony. (Photo by Conley Evans)

The ceremony also celebrated its in-person return for the first time after the pandemic forced the college to postpone its ceremony in 2020; the 2020 and 2021 inductees and distinguished alumni were recognized during a virtual ceremony. The annual event offers its Hall of Fame members an opportunity to gather in celebration of their contributions to the nursing profession and to welcome the newest members.

“The Hall of Fame was established to recognize the service of nurses who are considered to be among the most highly regarded nurse leaders and to acknowledge the significant impact that inductees have made to the advancement of nursing through clinical practice, teaching, administration and/or research,” College of Nursing Dean Sylvia Brown said. “They are truly Pirate nurses.”

In addition to honoring outstanding contributors to the nursing profession, the event also serves as a fundraiser for student scholarships. Since 2011, the Hall of Fame has raised $169,405 for merit-based student nursing scholarships. It is one of only two academic hall of fame programs at ECU.

During the event, Brown read a statement written by Hall of Fame scholarship recipient and neonatal nurse practitioner student Paola Aranda, who expressed gratitude for the opportunity to focus on her education and her patients without the financial and mental stress she would have otherwise faced.

“To the donors and newest members honored at tonight’s ceremony, I want to let you know that you have inspired me to not only strive to become the best version of myself as a leader and passionate nurse practitioner, but as role models you’ve also inspired me to set a new goal for myself; I hope to one day help struggling students achieve their goals with financial assistance the same way that you’ve helped me,” Aranda wrote.

2021-22 Hall of Fame Inductees

Dr. Frances Thunberg D’Hoosteaere

A longtime nurse educator whose nursing career began with an ADN degree from Wayne Community College and has included clinical nursing at hospitals and health care centers throughout the state. Thunberg D’Hoosteaere’s career as an educator began at the community college level before joining Atlantic Christian College/Barton College and then ECU before retiring from Barton as an associate dean and MSN Program Director in 2021. In addition to the nurses that Thunberg D’Hoosteaere has helped directly through her teaching, she has aided countless others through the NCLEX test review company that she and a colleague established in the early 1980s. This work resulted in numerous editions of Nursing Review books for NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-LPN and countless test preparation workshops in North Carolina and surrounding states.

Col. Amalia DiVittorio, USAF

DiVittorio — a Pirate Nurse alumna with master’s degrees in both Business Administration and Nursing from ECU — set herself apart as a nurse leader throughout her career in the U.S. Air Force, with her most recent promotion to colonel coming earlier this year. During her service, DiVittorio has directed outpatient care and facilitated telehealth and population health in Europe’s largest American family practice. She has been deployed five times including deployments to Afghanistan, Honduras, Pakistan and Iraq and has received numerous award and decorations including the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal and Air Force Achievement Medal.

Dr. Wanda Lancaster

Lancaster became the inaugural director of the College of Nursing’s Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner concentration in 2017, which has thus far infused North Carolina with more than 50 psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners. Lancaster — an alumna of the ECU’s DNP program who also holds BSN, MSN degrees and a post-master’s certificate — committed her career to the mental health field and has practiced in a variety of outpatient and private practice settings, inpatient psychiatric and substance use disorder acute care and behavioral health dedicated emergency departments. Prior to joining the faculty in the College of Nursing, Lancaster established her own holistic private practice. She is active in multiple professional organizations, has received multiple awards for her excellence in practice, professional responsibility and teaching practices and is lauded as an expert of her field.

Dr. Julie Oehlert

Oehlert has been instrumental in improving patient and nurse experiences in eastern North Carolina. In her current role, she serves as the chief experience officer/chief brand officer at Vidant Health and has integrated Dr. Jean Watson’s human caring theory into patient and employee experiences to improve both. Oehlert — who holds a BSN from Carroll Columbia College of Nursing and a DNP degree from the University of Minnesota — has worked to improve patient experiences in health care systems across the nation. Prior to her work in that arena, she worked in intensive care units and emergency departments and began a boutique health care financial solutions company for emergency services. Oehlert has received numerous awards for her work including the Beryl Institute Healthcare Professional Innovation Award and Studer Group Pillar Awards for Excellence.

Kathy Brinkley Turner

Turner’s impact in nursing reaches throughout the state, as her work as assistant chief in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has resulted in more competent nurse aides statewide. Prior to joining NCDHHS, Turner — who holds a BSN degree from ECU and began her nursing career at Pitt County Memorial Hospital (now Vidant Medical Center) — developed course curricula to engage students into health careers and provided health science education continuing education that served more than 500 health science education teachers while serving at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction as a health science education consultant. Turner now serves as a project coordinator for a grant funded by the Association of Home Health and Hospice Care of NC to address the shortage of RNs in this area.

Dr. Deborah Tyndall

Tyndall is an associate professor in the College of Nursing’s Department of Nursing Science and is a leader in nurse education and scholarship. She maintains an active research agenda that includes work with Wilson County Schools, studying mental health among school-age children and teaching practices to prepare nurse scientists. She has numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals and is a frequent presenter at academic conferences worldwide. Tyndall is also a passionate servant leader, and has worked to support nursing student global opportunities, among other service work. She holds a BSN degree from Barton College and MSN and Ph.D. degrees from ECU and began her career working in behavioral health nursing before becoming a nurse educator.

Cmdr. William P. (Bill) Vurnakes, USN, Ret.

Vurnakes spent 33 years serving in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserve, beginning as a hospital corpsman in support of marines at the height of the Vietnam War before serving as a senior corpsman in Okinawa, Japan, caring for marines wounded in Vietnam and then in Camp Lejeune and Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. Vurnakes served honorably for more than three years and continued his education, earning a BS in Business Administration from ECU and a BSN in Nursing from ECU. Vernakes was commissioned in the Navy as a Nurse Corps Officer and served in a variety of positions and locations before transferring to the Naval Reserve and returning to school to complete a nurse anesthesia degree from Norfolk General. Vurnakes retired from the reserve at the rank of commander and now works as a staff CRNA at Cape Fear Valley Medical System, Cumberland Anesthesia Associates and Highsmith Rainey Hospital, and has served as chief CRNA from 1995-2001.

Col. Jo Ann Maurer Wever, USAR, Ret.

Through service nurse education and in the military, Wever has set herself apart in preparing the next generation of nurses. Wever joined the U.S. Army Reserves in 1980, promoted to colonel in 1993 and received the “A” proficiency designator for Excellence in Education awarded by the Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. She began her teaching career at the University of Kentucky where she spent 30 years, and became the founding dean of the Campbellsville University School of Nursing in Campbellsville, Ky., in 2005 before serving as chair of the nursing division at Lindsey Wilson College, also in Kentucky. She has been named Nurse Educator of the Year by the Kentucky League for Nursing and honored as the Nurse Educator of the Year — renamed the Jo Ann Maurer Wever Teaching Excellence Award.

Dr. Kamilah Williams

Williams blends leadership skills, development and operational expertise as administrator of nursing professional development in clinical education at Vidant Health. Through her leadership, the organization received accreditation of the nurse residency program during the pandemic in 2020 and designed and developed an international nurse fellowship and implemented resuscitation quality improvement. Williams holds a BSN from UNC-Greensboro and an MSN in Nursing Education from ECU. She is involved with several community activities and professional organizations and has served as part-time faculty at Winston-Salem State University and Walden University.

2022 Distinguished Alumni – Dr. Alta Andrews

Andrews’ career as a faculty member with the College of Nursing spans 45 years. She has held numerous roles in the college including as a department chair of community and mental health nursing and nursing services administration before advancing to the position of associate dean for community partnerships and practice. She continues to teach and facilitate the Clinical Education Partners course.

“Dr. Andrews has worked tirelessly to help us remain in compliance with our various community partners, which has been especially challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Brown said of Andrews’ work over the last two years.

Andrews has published numerous articles related to public health and nurse education and has garnered more than $1.25 million in grant funding. Over her career, Andrews — who earned a BSN degree from ECU, along with two MPH degrees and a doctorate in public health from UNC-Chapel Hill — has received many honors including the Outstanding Leadership Award by Beta Nu Chapter, Outstanding Mentor Award by Beta Nu and the Outstanding Faculty Award from the College of Nursing. Andrews is an active member and has held leadership roles in several professional and service organizations.

ECU is in the public phase of the Pursue Gold campaign to raise half a billion dollars. This ambitious effort will create new paths to success for Pirates on campus, across the country and around the world. Donor gifts during the campaign will keep us constantly leading and ready to advance what’s possible. Learn more at