Harlow Sires: Estate gift to support UIC Nursing
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Sires says UIC Nursing was a “second chance” for him. He grew up in Superior, Wisconsin. His father was a railway billing clerk and his mother a dressmaker. After Sires graduated from high school at age 17, he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, but he dropped out after less than a year, which he now attributes to immaturity.
He took a job as an orderly in a nursing home and discovered his passion, deciding to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN).
“It sounds really weird,” he says. “I was making $1.65 an hour as an orderly. I don’t think I had any benefits, but I didn’t want to go home when the shift was over. It was always my favorite job.”
As an LPN, Sires worked in Arkansas – where his mother was from – before relocating to Chicago, taking a job at Saint Joseph Hospital on the North Side (now Ascension Saint Joseph). On a return trip to Superior, one of his mother’s dressmaking clients who was also a nurse told him he should get his bachelor’s degree, suggesting that it would give him more opportunities in nursing.
UIC Nursing influence
Sires heeded the advice, applying to programs in Chicago, and was grateful when UIC accepted him.
“[One university I applied to] didn’t want to take a chance on me, but the University of Illinois [Chicago] did,” he says. “I was given a second chance.”
While a student at UIC Nursing, he juggled school while continuing to work at “St. Joe’s” on the weekends. He was determined to be successful in school this time.
After graduating, he took surgical ICU nursing job at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Lukes Medical Center (now Rush University Medical Center).
“Transitioning from medical nursing to the high-intensity surgical ICU was a major challenge, and I was much better prepared for the changes from my education at University of Illinois Chicago,” he says.
‘The right thing to do’
Sires met Herron after graduating from UIC Nursing, and the two moved to Boston where Herron had been recruited for a fundraising job. Sires worked in a trauma ICU at Massachusetts General Hospital. He got his master’s degree in nursing from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and shifted into informatics nursing, working as a clinical applications manager at Brockton Hospital and then a patient services clinical systems analyst at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.
Next, Sires and Herron moved to Seattle when Herron was hired by a biotech research company. Sires worked as a nursing informatics analyst and ultimately as a nurse residency coordinator at Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue, Washington. He helped new nurses adjust to the role of staff nurse and introduced a computerized orientation system.
When it came time to retire, Sires and Herron selected Tucson for its desert climate. Sires says he’s always had an affinity for cacti – he had 26 plants in his apartment in Chicago – and is now surrounded by them. He now volunteers at Archaeology Southwest and the Tucson Botanical Garden.
Looking back on his accomplishments throughout his nursing career, Sires says he wanted to give back to the college that helped make it possible.
“I’m not looking for a whole lot of recognition,” he says. “I’m not doing it for any praise. It just feels to me like the right thing to do.”