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Saint Louis University Names New Dean of Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing

01/16/2020Media Inquiries

Nancy Solomon

Reserved for members of the media.

Danny G. Willis, DNS, R.N., FAAN, has been selected as dean of the Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing at Saint Louis University. 

He will join SLU on July 1, 2020, succeeding Peggy Ellis, Ph.D., R.N., who is serving as interim dean for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Danny G. Willis
Danny G. Willlis, DNS, R.N., FAAN

Willis has spent more than two decades in academic nursing as a leader, researcher, mentor and educator.  He currently is the associate dean of academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing. Before that, he served as a tenured faculty member and department chair at Boston College’s William F. Connell School of Nursing.

“Danny Willis brings to SLU extensive knowledge in nursing education, a significant scholarly profile, and experience with the Jesuit tradition. I am excited to welcome him to this leadership position,” said Chester Gillis, Ph.D., SLU’s interim provost.  “At the same time, I am appreciative of the excellent job Peggy Ellis has done in guiding the nursing school during this time of transition.”

In his role as associate dean of academic affairs at Wisconsin-Madison’s nursing school, Willis ensures the quality and rigor of all graduate and undergraduate academic nursing programs. He oversees program planning and development, reviews the curriculum and supports students. In addition, Willis advances initiatives that enhance an environment of engagement and inclusion excellence whereby students’ voices are heard and faculty and staff are given opportunities.

"We are so excited and pleased to have Dr. Willis join us in the dean's position here at the Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing,” Ellis said.  “He is well qualified to serve in that role.  The faculty is looking forward to working with him to continue to enrich our nursing programs and take us into the future." 

An award-winning educator, Willis received a leadership excellence award from the New England Chapter of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, given for vision, tenacity and commitment to improve mental health care and advance the profession of psychiatric nursing. Willis also earned the Excellence in Teaching and Research Award from Boston College.

Willis’ area of scholarship has focused on human responses to interpersonal violence including bullying and the mental health of boys and men in the aftermath of trauma and abuse. Willis is a Fellow in the Academy of Nursing for his sustained contributions to men’s mental health and the philosophical underpinnings of the discipline. His research on adult male survivors healing from child maltreatment has been funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Willis was elected to the board of directors of the Society of Rogerian Scholars and the Wisconsin Center for Nursing, and has been an associate editor, guest editor or reviewer for multiple scholarly journals.

He is a member of the American Academy of Nursing’s expert panel on violence and health and provided national leadership as chair of the organization’s expert panel on theory-guided practice. He has served as a national leader with the American Assembly for Men in Nursing as well as on the research council steering committee of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, and search committee for the executive director of that organization. 

Willis received his bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Mississippi Medical Center. His graduate degrees – a master’s and doctor of nursing science – are from Louisiana State University Health Science Center-New Orleans.

“I am very excited to be able to serve as the next dean of the Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing at Saint Louis University and help to bolster its excellent reputation. I especially look forward to being back in a Jesuit, Catholic university and working to the best of my ability with university administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and communities of interest to shape the next generation of nurses educated within the Jesuit, Catholic intellectual tradition,” Willis said.

The nursing dean search committee that selected Willis was chaired by Tom Burroughs, Ph.D., dean of the College for Public Health and Social Justice. Search committee members are: Vicki Moran, Ph.D., nursing faculty; Gerrie Meyer, Ph.D., nursing faculty; Joni Thanavaro, DNP, nursing administration; Trudy Valentine, SLU trustee; Jonathan Smith, Ph.D., University administration; Pat Potter, Ph.D., Dean’s External Advisory Committee; Anthony Breitbach, Ph.D., director of Athletic Training Program; Lori Owens, nursing staff; Michelle Papachrisanthou, DNP, nursing faculty; and Sidney Smith, nursing student.

 About Saint Louis University School of Nursing

Founded in 1928, the Trudy Busch Valentine School of Nursing at Saint Louis University has achieved a national reputation for its innovative and pioneering programs. Offering bachelor's, master's, and doctoral nursing programs, its faculty members are nationally recognized for their teaching, research and clinical expertise.

 About Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers nearly 13,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place. For more information, visit