SCF Nurse Graduate Named State College Lifetime Achievement Winner

(Bradenton, Fla., Aug. 22, 2017) — An alumna from State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) has been named the Lifetime Achievement Award winner for this year’s Leroy Collins Distinguished Alumni Awards, created to honor distinguished alumni from Florida community colleges for the substantial contributions they have made. Tessa Angelo Suplee, who earned her Associate of Science in Nursing degree at SCF in 1982, was honored for her contributions as a flight nurse in Iraq and Afghanistan with the U.S. Air Force Reserves, as well as her contributions as a critical care and operating room nurse in the local community.

Retired Lt. Col. Suplee was already a successful nurse working in local hospitals when she received a commission to be a flight nurse in the U.S. Air Force on her 42nd birthday, following in her parents’ footsteps of military service. Before joining the military, she was a single mother working weekends in the emergency department while taking classes at what was then Manatee Community College and now SCF. She says the nursing program was one of her best life experiences, “only I didn’t realize it at the time.”

“I gained the self-confidence and discipline I needed and learned I could set myself up to do anything I wanted. I was on a mission for independence. The nursing instructors were tough but even. I came to realize they weren't just teaching me nursing, but how to cope with other people in the work force.”

Those challenges and successes at SCF helped prepare her for a military career and cultivated a lifelong love for learning. She was among more than 200 captains studying for a promotion and in her class of 20 students – pilots, nurses, attorneys and teachers – she was the only one who didn’t have a bachelor’s degree at the time and won the Distinguished Graduate award.

She has since earned her bachelor’s degree in business and her flight nurse and battlefield nursing education from the School of Aerospace Medicine. Her job required that she know the physiology of altitude and how to prevent additional trauma from the evacuation flights. She also was trained in case her aircraft came under fire.

In addition to her time in the military, Suplee worked as a critical care and operating nurse, volunteered in Haiti after the earthquakes there, was chair for the Sarasota Manatee Heart Ball and has spoken at numerous schools and at veterans’ events. Suplee, who lives in Sarasota, will be honored at the 2017 LeRoy Collins Distinguished Alumni Awards on Nov. 2 in Palm Harbor.

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Tessa Angelo Suplee

Retired Lt. Col. Tessa Angelo Suplee

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