When Margo Governo ’78 finished her doctoral degree at Columbia University in 1990, she had already been a full-time professor at Wagner for 10 years. Yet, she was not ready to rest on her laurels. Instead, she called Coney Island Hospital and asked if they needed someone with her qualifications. The hospital hired her as a clinical nurse specialist in psychiatry, a position she filled part time while she continued to teach at Wagner. She went on to found a health-promotion program for teenagers, which she ran for many years and is still ongoing.
No wonder that one of her former students, Michelle Romano ’97 M’12, says that one of the biggest things she learned from Dr. Governo is that “Everything is accomplishable.”
And no wonder that Governo’s retirement from Wagner College is really only a semi-retirement. She is still working as a consultant and teaching nursing courses online.
At least the online teaching gives her the freedom to travel with her husband and sail on their boat, the Koru, during the summers. “We like to travel and meet people and see how others live,” she says.
A Brooklyn native, Margo Governo came to Wagner College in 1976 as a student; she was already a registered nurse, employed at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, as well as wife and a mother, but wanted to attain her bachelor’s degree in the field.
She was inspired by Wagner’s liberal arts courses — she even took violin lessons — and by Jane Bacher, a nursing professor who became her mentor and pushed her to continue her education at the best school possible. Governo listened to Bacher’s advice, and earned her master’s and doctorate at Columbia.
With specialties ranging from psychiatric nursing to preventive care to holistic approaches to healing, Governo enjoyed teaching many courses at Wagner. Her undergraduate psychiatric nursing course stands out, because she believes strongly that “psych is the heart and soul of nursing.” Many students came to the course with fears or biases against psychiatric nursing, but Governo says, “It was my challenge to make it come alive.”
Michelle Romano, who is now an adjunct professor of nursing at Wagner, was one of those students for whom psychiatric nursing came alive in Governo’s class. In the classroom, Romano says, Governo is “dynamic. She’s very inspirational and gives all of herself.”
On the graduate level, a favorite course was the capstone professional seminar, in which the students identified a problem they had noticed in their professional experience and developed programs to address those needs. She wrote a book based on this course, No Time for Shadows: Holistic Civic Engagement Activities for Nurses and Other Health Care Advocates in Society (Linus Publishers, 2012, 2nd edition.)
One of Governo’s proudest moments came last year. While serving as the National League for Nursing Ambassador for the Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing, she helped organize the school’s successful application to be named a 2012–16 Center of Excellence in Nursing Education.
Governo believes the most important issue that people need to know about in her field is the need for better mental health care. In her 25 years of experience with psychiatric nursing, she says, “I saw first-hand how good, caring, accessible intervention in this field can make a huge difference.” She wants to see parity for mental and physical health coverage, and to attract more people to the field.
Nurses are particularly well equipped to help with mental health, she says. “My nursing background taught me to look at the strengths and weaknesses of a person. We can emphasize the strengths of a person — that’s the nursing way.”
— Laura Barlament | Editor, Wagner Magazine | December 20, 2013
READ MORE: Retirement Profiles
Six longtime Wagner professors participated in the College’s voluntary resignation program and retired as of the fall semester of 2013 or the spring semester of 2014.