Alumni Award Winner Biographies

Most Supportive Alumna

Dr. Irma L. Jordan, DNP, APRN, FNP/PMHNP-BC

Dr. Irma Jordan bleeds orange through and through. She received her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor of nursing practice degrees from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Nursing, where she serves as an assistant professor of primary care and public health.

Born in Millington, Tenn., Dr. Jordan might have graced the silver screen if the nursing profession hadn’t chosen her first. Being a Red Cross volunteer at a naval base left a lasting impression. “It was my first job, and I got to see firsthand the cost of our freedom in the young men returning from Vietnam,” she says.

Having practiced as a family nurse practitioner since 1998, Dr. Jordan says, “I see nursing from the viewpoint of where we are going. I, along with other amazing colleagues, have the role of educating students to not only deliver high quality health care, but to also serve as leaders directing the health of our citizens.”

Practicing what she preaches, Dr. Jordan is developing an integrated model of health care delivery in the primary care setting for those with mental health disorders. With teaching roles in the family nurse practitioner and psychiatric/mental health options, Dr. Jordan also teaches mental health nursing in the Clinical Nurse Leader program. Her invaluable work earned her an educational grant to examine the enhancement of mental health/substance use education and practice in an advanced education doctor of nursing practice program.

Along with her service as a crisis line volunteer in Memphis and on the board of the UT Health Science Center Nursing Alumni Association, Dr. Jordan also serves in a number of professional organizations, including Sigma Theta Tau, American Nurses Association, Tennessee Nurses Association, American College of Nurse Practitioners, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (Tennessee State Representative), National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculty, and the Tennessee Primary Care Association.

Living her life inspired by Anais Nin’s quote: “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” Dr. Jordan is the proud wife of Billy and mother of three, who enjoys simple days of doting on her seven grandchildren—all under the age of 5. She still hopes to one day cross Europe (and other quiet vacations) off her bucket list.

Outstanding Alumna

Dr. Betty Witherspoon, EdD

“There is no better gift than an education,” says Dr. Betty Witherspoon. “It is the gift that opens doors to a better life.”

With a strong mantle of education and work ethic impressed upon her early in life, Dr. Witherspoon received her bachelor’s in nursing from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s predecessor, the University of Tennessee at Memphis, a master’s in nursing from the University of Alabama, and a doctor of education from California Coastal College.

With her wit for science and math and passion for caring for others, Dr. Witherspoon knew her calling was nursing. “I was influenced by watching a cousin and a friend’s mother who were both nurses,” she says. “I have always been fascinated by the health care industry, and I knew nursing was a profession that would bring great satisfaction and meaning to my life.”

After nursing stints at military hospitals in Germany and hospitals in Mississippi and New Orleans, Dr. Witherspoon compassionately taught nursing, with specialties in child care and mental health, for close to three decades at Tennessee State University. In 1988, she began nursing babies back to health in the neonatal intensive care unit of Vanderbilt University Hospital. She continues to share her craft with students and faculty members at Vanderbilt as does her husband, Dr. John D. Witherspoon (UT Memphis ’68), who is in private practice as an otolaryngologist. “UT in Memphis holds a special place in my heart…it’s where John and I met; it’s where I was molded by many amazing students, faculty, and mentors. Many of my college classmates are still great friends,” she says.

Faith, family, and friends are what inspire Dr. Witherspoon, who calls Nashville home, to be one of the biggest philanthropic cheerleaders for education, the arts, and community service. Mother and grandmother are her nearest and dearest titles. Her son, John, has a thriving real estate career, and her daughter, Reese, “who could have been a doctor, if she wanted to” is an Academy Award-winning actress. Her granddaughter, Ava, 12, “is a budding veterinary,” while Deacon, 8, “has his eyes on architecture.” And her youngest grandchildren — Abby, 6, and Draper, 5, “still have some time,” she says laughing.

A member of St. George’s Episcopal Church, Dr. Witherspoon is also a tireless advocate for the Arthritis Foundation of Middle Tennessee, the Nashville Children’s Theatre, and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Nashville. She also enjoys spending time with her pets—horses, which are often used for therapeutic and educational purposes.