Dr. Bennie Fleming, Nurse, Educator, and WWII Veteran, Named 2024 Wheeler Community Spirit Award Honoree

January 11, 2024

A graphic with a purple background, an image of Dr. Bennie Fleming seated in a chair on the left, and on the right, white and yellow text that reads: "2024 Wheeler Community Spirit Award | Dr. Bennie Fleming"

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Bennie Y. Fleming, a longtime leader in education, health, and social justice, will receive the 2024 Wheeler Community Spirit Award!

Throughout her career, Dr. Fleming focused on creating and expanding opportunities for others. She served in World War II as a nurse – at a time when the United States Armed Forces were still segregated – and went on to become a dedicated public servant in a number of important roles for the Providence community. She was the science area administrator supervisor for Providence Public Schools, the first Black nurse to teach at Rhode Island College, and an education director for Brown University School of Medicine and director of the medical school’s summer program. She was also part of multiple state organizations, including roles as president of both the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society boards, the lifetime governor of the board of Miriam Hospital, and the chairperson of the Urban League of Rhode Island’s Education Task Force, among others.

She has also been recognized with numerous awards for her service, including the NAACP’s Education Award; the National Association of Medical Minority Educators Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Health Profession in Education; the Distinguished Alumni Award in Nursing from Meharry Medical College; the Ginger Angier Outstanding Board Award by Planned Parenthood RI; the George T. Downing Award for Education by the RI Black Heritage Society; and an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Providence College.

Now, she will receive the Wheeler Community Spirit Award, an honor that, since 2004, has recognized a person in the Providence community who advocates for those with fewer opportunities. They are selected based on their efforts in four key areas: passion for equity and social justice, both locally and globally; appreciation for and promotion of the benefits of education; commitment to creating opportunities in the community for those who otherwise might not have a voice or an advocate; and resilience in the face of challenge and adversity.

“Throughout her career, Dr. Bennie Fleming has exemplified what the Wheeler Community Spirit Award represents,” said Head of School Allison Gaines Pell. “Her devotion to our communities’ wellbeing, whether in war, at school, or everyday life, is an inspiration, and we look forward to joining together in her honor.”

Dr. Fleming will receive the Wheeler Community Spirit Award during a special ceremony on Friday, Feb. 16 at 6pm on Wheeler’s Providence campus. The award ceremony will be followed by the annual SICA (Students Involved in Cultural Awareness) Potluck. Those who would like to attend should fill out this RSVP form. The event is sponsored by SICA, the Office of Unity & Diversity, and the Wheeler School Parents Association.

In the meantime, you can learn more about Dr. Fleming’s incredible life in this WJAR news story that aired last fall, when she turned 100-years-old. As she reflected on her experiences over the last century, she offered this meaningful advice that also speaks to the warmth and perseverance reflected in the Wheeler Community Spirit Award: “If there’s a lesson in learning how to live, it’s to try to help somebody along the way, and just don’t try to be so negative.”

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