JoStWinona State University nursing professor Jo Stejskal’s colleagues and students have been making it difficult for her to clean up her office on the third floor of Stark Hall.

Cards and letters are piled on her desk. Her email inbox is full. Every inch of her door is covered with inspirational quotes, drawings, or notes like the one that reads: “Jo—this is a reminder! You are amazing.”

Stejskal is retiring this spring after 41 years in the WSU Department of Nursing. To many people on campus and in the Winona healthcare community, she is the single most important reason for WSU’s sterling reputation for nursing education.

“Her leadership has been one of the main forces shaping the reputation of this program,” said Bill McBreen, Dean of the College of Nursing. “Everything we get to brag about and be proud of, Jo’s been a part of all of that throughout most of the history of the program. She’s definitely left her mark, and we are all beneficiaries of her hard work.”

Stejskal was working as head nurse at Winona Community Memorial Hospital in 1975 when she learned that WSU was looking for a clinical faculty member. She talked about it with the hospital’s director of nursing, who encouraged her to give the teaching position a try.

“The rest is history,” Stejskal said. “It never crossed my mind to go anywhere else. I felt that this was it, my vocation, my career, the place to raise our family. It seemed like the right thing to do.”

When Stejskal first joined the Department of Nursing, lectures were held in the old basement gymnasium in Somsen Hall while students sat on wooden bleachers. Today, WSU maintains its status as a top-quality nursing school by continually embracing new teaching methods and technology.

“Now we have Stark Hall, flipped classrooms, labs. It’s a continued commitment to educate nurses who are caring, knowledgeable, and safe.”

In addition to being the guiding force of the WSU Department of Nursing for four decades, Stejskal was honored as Distinguished Faculty in 2011, has served WSU as the NCAA Athletics Faculty Representative for 10 years, as the NCAA Compliance Team member, Secretary of the Warrior Club, Faculty Senator, and on academic search committees.

Philanthropy has also been a major part of her impact on WSU. She and her husband, Jerry, who played football for the Warriors, sponsor an annual scholarship of $1,000 through the WSU Foundation, alternating yearly recipients between nursing students and football players.

For Stejskal, working with students who wanted to dedicate their careers to helping patients has been the greatest reward. As the piles of notes in her office can attest, she has been a positive influence on generations of students.

“I just received an email from someone who said they heard I was retiring and told me about how I made a difference to them back then,” Stejskal said. “I think it’s just paying it forward. So many people have asked me how many students I’ve had, and I don’t know, but the bigger piece is how many lives have I touched who have gone out and touched other lives—that it’s become exponential.”