A Cornerstone of Caring: Celebrating the College of Nursing’s critical role in Falk College
Use the numbered orange dots to connect events on the timeline with corresponding photos. Photos and historical data are courtesy of University Archives, Syracuse University Libraries, and individual faculty and staff contributors. Falk College is especially grateful to Barbara “Bobbi” Harris, Syracuse University alumna and professor emerita of nursing. A prolific and thoughtful writer, Professor Harris was on the board of the Syracuse University Nurses Alumni Association and served as historian.
The School of Nursing had its origins in the nursing school of the Hospital of the Good Shepherd, both of which came under the control of Syracuse University’s College of Medicine in 1915. When President Franklin Roosevelt signed The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the GI Bill, Chancellor William P. Tolley welcomed all veterans seeking a college education to Syracuse University. His decision to open the doors widely to World War II veterans followed another visionary decision he made the year before to support the nation’s war efforts. It was in 1943 that he directed Dean Edith Smith to create the Syracuse University School of Nursing to respond to the wartime call for nurses. Within a week of its opening at Syracuse University, Congress passed the Bolton Nurse Training Act that created the Cadet Nurse Corps. In the first year of the program, Chancellor Tolley offered scholarships to Japanese American students in internment camps to attend Syracuse University; six of these students were admitted into the nursing program.
During its 63-year history, nursing education at Syracuse University was synonymous with innovation and first-ever milestones.
The origins of family-centered maternity care are linked with Syracuse University’s School of Nursing. Alumna and professor emerita, Alice Reynolds, was a pioneer in developing childbirth classes in Syracuse during the late 1940s. Pictured here are nursing students in June 1949.
In addition, Syracuse University was among the first baccalaureate programs to teach the public health nursing specialty as a requirement of the undergraduate curriculum in the 1950s.
Nursing at Syracuse University was home to one of the first limited residency programs for advanced practice nursing with participants from most states and internationally.
Students from Syracuse University’s nursing program, known as Blue Angels, were also the very first to gain hands-on experience at the Veterans Administration Hospital.
Student nurses were greatly involved in organizations and activities. Syracuse Memorial Hospital’s nursing honor society, The Agenda Society, was adopted by Syracuse University as its first nursing honorary. In 1959, the University was accepted into the Sigma Theta Tau nursing honorary as the Omicron Chapter, and the Agenda Society was retired. A bench in the Orange Grove forever honors the College of Nursing and the Omicron Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau.
In the 1980s, the Minority Nursing Association was founded and was later replaced by the African American, Latina, Hawaiian, Asian, and Native American Nurses Association in the mid-1990s.
Over the course of its history, the School of Nursing was located in several different buildings. One location was the War Department Building, a two-story building on Irving Avenue demolished in 1952 to make room for the new Veterans Administration Hospital. A later location was 426 Ostrom Avenue.
When the School of Nursing was incorporated into the College of Human Services and Health Professions in 2001, many nursing faculty members were integral in developing and teaching courses in health and wellness and public health. “Students need to learn that to successfully help people regain good health, they have to look at the whole person.” These words of Barbara “Bobbi” Harris, professor emerita of nursing and nursing program historian, illustrate the important focus on holistic health and interdisciplinary approaches embraced and shared by the School of Nursing and Falk College. Harris is pictured left with first-year nursing students taking blood pressure in a 1993 class.
Professor Luvenia Cowart, a former nursing faculty member who joined the Department of Public Health leads the Genesis Health Project in the Syracuse community. This collaboration with Falk College and other partners aims to reduce health disparities and promote healthy lifestyles among African Americans.
Syracuse’s distinguished nursing graduates have left indelible marks in the field. Mary Elizabeth Carnegie ’52 was a nursing educator and author known for breaking down racial barriers who mentored generations of African American nurse leaders. Carolyne Davis ’65 taught and chaired the baccalaureate program at Syracuse before serving as administrator of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthcare Financing Administration where she managed the Medicare and Medicaid programs under President Ronald Reagan.
Today thousands of Syracuse University nursing alumni work around the world in healthcare agencies and teaching institutions. Graduates make their contributions through office in professional organizations, by working toward healthcare policy change, through writing and research, engagement in consultancies, and in entrepreneurship. Each year they are joined by new Falk College alumni pursuing complementary health-related careers that make a difference, from physician assistants and public health educators to healthcare administrators and health policy experts.
Nursing at Syracuse has left a special mark throughout communities all over the world, and continues to do so through those who earned nursing degrees at Syracuse University and through the nursing administrators and faculty who have taught here.
Falk academic programs continue to be shaped by the nursing program’s values of human connection, civic service, and social justice.