Honorary Life Members

On its 30th anniversary in 2002, RNFOO presented the first Honourary Life Membership to Laura Barr, an original founder of the Foundation.  The next year the honour was given to Sue Williams who was instrumental in re-incarnating the Foundation when it was experiencing transitional difficulties in the 1990s. Since 2002 a number of individuals who have made significant contributions to the nursing profession have been chosen by the Board of the Foundation to receive this recognition.  Here are their stories:

HLM Presentation cpd fixedJanet Rush, RN, PhD - 2019

Tonight, we pay tribute to Janet Rush, and present her with an honorary life membership in RNFOO.  Janet demonstrates clear purpose, unwavering commitment, enthusiasm, and immense passion for the RNFOO mission as well as the nursing profession in general.  Janet is a results-driven nursing leader who truly lives by RNFOO values, acts as a positive role model, conveys the sense of urgency when appropriate, and persists in the face of difficulties.  She treats people with compassion, respect and dignity and it is not surprising that people enthusiastically and willingly act on her initiatives.  Applying her creative and strategic mindset, Janet sees opportunities from a broad perspective and focuses energy on key activities that will ultimately have the most positive impact on Ontario nurses and nursing students.

Read more: Janet Rush - 2019

Linda Cooper, RN, PhD - 2018

Linda exemplifies the criteria established for this prestigious award and is most deserving of recognition of her longstanding contributions to RNFOO, the nursing profession and to the success of hundreds of nursing students.
For over a decade, Linda has generously offered to her time, expertise and commitment to the work of RNFOO. Prior to joining the Board of Directors in 2008, Linda was a member of the Gala and Awards and Scholarship Committee. Through her dedicated and collegial work on this committee it was clear to the RNFOO Board of Directors that she was a ‘keeper’. With the unanimous support of board members Linda joined the Board in the role of Vice-President in 2008, and in 2012 assumed the position of President.

Read more: Linda Cooper - 2018


The Registered Nurses Foundation of Ontario honours a dynamic duo who have influenced the careers and lives of many nurses here this evening and those in far flung places.  Gail Donner and Mary Wheeler – founders and partners of the infamous ‘donnerwheeler’ are the recipients of the 2016 RNFOO Honourary Lifetime Member Award.   donnerwheeler had its beginning when Gail was working at Sick Kids as director of nursing education and research.  Mary had opened her own consulting practice in organizational development.  The Ontario Ministry of Health – driven by a concern about nursing recruitment and retention- initiated the Nursing Innovation Fund to support innovative projects responsive to this concern.  At the time, most organizational professional development programs focused on helping nurses to learn what they needed to know to do the work that needed to be done.

Read more: donnerwheeler - 2016


Like other Lifetime Member Award honorees, Janice Waddell has provided exemplary leadership in a number of ways and in a number of roles on the board of directors.  She began in 2006 as the Vice-president of the board and co-chaired the very successful Sheila Basrur Fundraising event for scholarships in Oncology nursing.  Janice became president in 2008, continued as past president until 2012, and then because we never wanted her to leave, she continues to participate in planning for the Gala.  Over the years Janice also found the time to assess scholarship applicants, recruit and mentor new board members, and provide much needed advice and support to all of us as we assumed different roles in the organization.  I know I value that support as does Linda and all of the other board members.   

Read more: Janice Waddell


Dorothy Ferguson has been a steadfast contributor and supporter of the Registered Nurses Foundation of Ontario for over ten years. Over the course of those years she has provided leadership to RNFOO within a number of roles. Dorothy began her formal work with RNFOO in 2003 when she joined the RNFOO Board of Directors. She assumed the role of Vice-President in 2004, President in 2006 and Past-President in 2008. In addition, Dorothy was highly involved in both the executive and finance committees, and served as Chair of the Donor Relations and Nomination Committees.

Read more: Dorothy Ferguson


Shirley Avery has a long commitment to the Registered Nurses Foundation of Ontario.  She served the Foundation in a number of roles over the course of her professional career.  Shirley began her work with RNFOO in 1998 when she volunteered her time and energy to the Gala Planning Committee.  In 1999 she became a member of the RNFOO Board of Directors.  Shirley didn’t have much time to catch her breath when she was asked, and agreed, to assume the role of Chair for the Awards and Scholarships committee.

Read more: Shirley Avery


Honourary Life Membership is given to honour an individual who has made a significant contribution to the Foundation’s work over a period of time.  Bev Simpson was presented with this award at the Annual RNFOO Gala in May 2008, in recognition of her tireless commitment to RNFOO in multiple roles.

Bev’s extensive involvement and leadership provided a strong anchor for the Foundation as it has grown and flourished following its 1997 rejuvenation.  Bev joined the Foundation Board in 1998 and quickly assumed leadership of our first major fundraiser – the 1999 Gala at the Granite Club.  There the presence of the renewed Foundation was created and strengthened the Nursing Community within the Greater Toronto Area.  Bev then did a repeat performance by leading the 2000 Gala.  Ten years later she remains an avid supporter of the Gala and promotes its growth beyond the GTA.

Read more: Bev Simpson


The Board of Directors of RNFOO mourn the death of Dorothy Wylie on August 13, 2016.  In recognition of her contributions to nursing and to RNFOO, Dorothy was presented with an Honorary Life Membership in 2007.  Dorothy will be remembered as a nurse who invested in nurses and nursing, making significant contributions to the development of strong nursing leaders in Ontario and beyond.
A Celebration of Dorothy's Life took place on Monday, September 26, 2016 at 4:00 pm, at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto.  As per the obituary notice, donations to RNFOO can be made here in honour of Dorothy Wylie.
Read more: Dorothy Wylie

BEV MOIR - 2006

At the Gala in May 2006, Beverley Moir was presented with an Honourary Life Membership in recognition of her leadership and commitment to the Registered Nurses Foundation of Ontario.

Bev Moir was an active member of a small group of individuals who led the revitalization of the RNFOO in the mid to late 1990s. Bev served as the 1998 Gala Fund-raising Co-Chair with Kay Arpin and together they and their planning team launched the successful annual Gala, which continues today to be the centerpiece of the Foundation's fund-raising activities….and a not-to-be-missed annual event that nurses and friends of nursing look forward to each spring.

Read more: Bev Moir


The RNFOO Honourary Life Membership is meant to honour and thank an individual who has made a significant contribution to the Foundation’s work over time. At the Gala in May 2005, Dr. Kathleen MacMillan was presented with this award to thank her for her longstanding commitment to the Registered Nurses Foundation of Ontario.

Kathleen has been a strong supporter of advanced education for nurses and the work of the Foundation for more than two decades. She has given her time and expert knowledge in numerous ways and demonstrated a sincere dedication to the cause.  For many years Kathleen faithfully brought the Awards and Scholarship Committee together to review the numerous applications and, using rigorous selection criteria, carefully select the award winners.

Read more: Kathleen MacMillan


Kay Arpin is a well-known Canadian nurse educator, and an ardent advocate of excellence in nursing education.  In 2004 she was named an RNFOO Honorary Life Member, in recognition of her commitment to the Foundation.  Kay was a member of RNAO when the Foundation was established, and served on the RNAO Foundation Board from 1994 through 1997.  She was also a member of the first RNFOO Board of Directors.

Read more: Kay Arpin


In 2003, RNFOO awarded an honourary life membership to Susanne (Sue)
Williams. In the 1990s, Sue was instrumental in leading the revitalization of
RNFOO thus ensuring its success today. Throughout her career, Sue has worked
tirelessly to promote nurses, nursing education and the nursing profession. Sue was presented with this award at the Gala. She joined Laura Barr as the second honourary life member of the Foundation.

Sue retired from Ryerson University in 2007 after a 33 year career engaged in teaching, research and academic leadership. 

Read more: Sue Williams


Laura Barr played a pivotal role in the development of the nursing profession in Ontario, and since Ontario has the largest number of nurses, throughout Canada.  She began her career in Windsor, where she became chair of  RNAO’s Windsor-Essex chapter.

Barr’s vision was for nurses to function as independent practitioners, not as assistants to physicians.  It has been noted that Laura was incredibly progressive and displayed a natural understanding of people and organizational structures.

Read more: Laura Barr