From Baylor Bear to nursing dean

After serving as interim dean from July 2020 to April 2021, Dr. Linda Plank is the new dean at Baylor's Louise Herrington School of Nursing while also still being a clinical associate professor. Photo courtesy of Whitney Cortner

By Gierra Cottingham | Reporter

Baylor alumna Dr. Linda Plank has been named dean of the Louise Herrington School of Nursing as of last spring.

Plank began her nursing career at Baylor University, graduating as part of the class of 1977. Growing up, she said she did not have nursing role models nor a detailed career path, relying instead on God’s plan to lead her talents at the right place and time. Plank’s open mindset enabled her to embrace, fulfill and execute opportunities that presently have appointed her to effectively mentor future nurses of Baylor.

Receiving a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Baylor, a master’s degree from Texas Woman’s University and a doctoral degree from the University of Texas at Arlington — along with being nationally certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a nurse executive advanced — Plank acquired knowledge that ensures comfortability in LHSON.

“One of the first things I noticed about Dr. Plank when I came to Baylor was her servant’s heart,” Dr. Renee Flippo, faculty chair of LHSON, said. “She exemplifies servant leadership and does not ask faculty to do anything that she would not be willing to do herself. I knew when I saw her as associate dean physically move a bookcase that I needed in my office as new faculty, instead of asking someone else to do it, that I was seeing a true servant leader.”

Plank served as an administrator at Baylor University Medical Center for over 25 years before “retiring” and relocating to an invited teaching role from LHSON’s former dean. During the pandemic, Plank served as interim dean and said she executed her role by leaning on a verse from 2 Cor. 12:9, which says, “God’s power becomes perfect in your weaknesses.”

Throughout her career, Plank maintained a healthy lifestyle while attending to urgent matters as a nurse. Plank raised two very active children while attending their sports and school events to keep busy.

“In March of 2021, when Provost Brickhouse asked me to interview for the dean position, I was truly in shock,” Plank said.

Her positive interview feedback began a new chapter for Plank in May 2021.

Flippo said that Plank portrays humbleness as she tackles her weaknesses by relying on God and that Plank clearly considers how above and beyond her employees strive to ensure a deserving education for students despite obstacles such as hospitals closing to nursing students. Plank said that she was comfortably involved in seeking a new dean but that the Board of Advocates, faculty and staff, sought her.

“Her door is always open, and she has a listening ear,” Flippo said. “She tackles problems with much research and thought, trying to see multiple perspectives before a decision is made. She truly wants what is best for the faculty at the Louise Herrington School of Nursing.”

As dean, Plank supports faculty and staff in getting their needs fulfilled so that they’re able to deliver the best education. She said she continues to work with Janis Kovar, development officer of LHSON, in efforts to raise money for the school. Plank believes that the pandemic contributed to the praise of nurses by the public, which has resulted in an increase in gifts.

“We have the best supporters anywhere,” Plank said. “Many of our donors had connections with the nursing school, but some just love Baylor University and live in Dallas, so we benefit from their time, talent and financial support. We have over $7 million in unmet needs with our nursing students, so it is a huge priority to get new scholarships and increase existing scholarships.”

This summer, LHSON moved into its new academic building. Instead of the Paul L. Foster Success Center, the nursing school provides a room on the first floor that, as described by Plank, allows students to have advisers, testing accommodations and study spaces.

“Being with the students is still my greatest joy,” Plank said. “I know they are fulfilling God’s purpose in their lives to become the hands and feet of Christ. Most are so eager to graduate and help others. It always makes me proud to realize these students will be blessing others while they need health care for decades to come.”

Gierra Cottingham is a senior journalism major at Baylor University with an added concentration in Business. Born and raised in Houston, TX, she hopes to one day become a broadcast reporter and anchor in an alike major city. Her hobbies include painting, going to the beach and baking. She is also the last of her 3 siblings to graduate.