A rich history of nursing excellence

In 1914, the Indiana University Medical School was beginning to emerge. Robert W. Long Hospital finished construction four days before the first students arrived on campus. In June, the Indiana University Training School for Nurses opened its doors.

Young women flocked to the school to start their nursing training under Alice Fitzgerald, the first director of the training school. She worked to properly equip the hospital with a small staff of one instructor, two head nurses, a night supervisor, an operating room supervisor, and seven staff nurses. From 1915-1931, Ethel P. Clarke served as director and was responsible for both the hospital nursing service and the education of the students.

In 1922, six students established the Alpha chapter of Sigma Theta Tau nursing honor society in order to advance the status of nursing.

Bachelor’s degrees were first awarded in 1950. In 1956, the training school was recognized for its growth and maturation and was renamed the Indiana University School of Nursing. After a reevaluation of the school’s curriculum, practices and administration, Emily Holmquist was named the first dean in August 1957 in order to lead the school during its important revolutionary years. She served from 1957–1973 and, in that time, Dean Holmquist had many achievements, most notably the school was formally recognized as Indiana University’s tenth school in 1962.

Master’s degrees began being offered the next year. After the current building for the school was dedicated in May 1974, the Doctor of Nursing Science (DNS) program was approved in 1976 with the first degrees awarded in 1981. Distance education courses became available in 1985. The Indiana Commission for Higher Education approved the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program in December 2009.

Since its founding, Indiana University School of Nursing has evolved into the largest nursing school in the country that offers a full range of academic degrees from BSN to doctorate. The school has undergone various stages of growth and development from focusing on extending undergraduate nursing education in the state to building nursing’s presence on each of the IU campuses.

Currently, IU School of Nursing is focused on the Strategic Plan, which includes:

  • Educating nurses to deliver state-of-the-art care and research,
  • Recruiting and retaining high-quality faculty and staff, and
  • Being a national leader in innovative science to improve patient outcomes and cultivate partnerships to advance future approaches to research, education, and service.

A century of firsts, growth, and experiences

  • The Ball brothers of Muncie, Indiana donated $500,000 to construct Ball Residence in 1928 that housed 165 nursing students and provided classrooms, laboratories, instructors’ offices, and an indoor gym.
  • In 1936, Sigma Theta Tau funded its first recorded nursing research grant, and $600 was awarded to Alice Crist Malone of Ohio State University to measure achievement in nursing based on new curriculum objectives.
  • The first African-American student to graduate was Anne Mitchem-Davis in 1953. She went on to serve as a school nurse for the Marion County Department of Health and Hospitals and became the assistant dean of Howard University’s College of Nursing.
  • John Foster was the first male nurse to graduate from the school in 1967.
  • Former Dean Angela Barron McBride was the first woman to be named a distinguished professor at IU and the first woman from the state of Indiana elected to the Institute of Medicine, now known as the National Academy of Medicine.
  • Five young women – Bertha Ellen Rizer, Lucy Ellen Gilley, Mary Ruth Groenier, Marie Myrle Bratton, and Josephia Amada Grima – were the first nursing students to graduate from the school.
  • IUSON boasts five research-focused centers including Center for Enhancing Quality of Life in Chronic Illness, Faculty Innovating for Nursing Education, Research in Palliative & End-of-Life Communication and Training, Social Network Health Research Lab, and the Champion Center for Cancer Control Research.
  • Lauranne Sams, the school’s first African-American faculty member, was a founding member of the National Black Nurses Association.
  • Commissioned by the IU Alumni Nurses Association in 1931, artist Robert Davidson designed the sculpture “Eve” that stands in Ball Nurses' Sunken Gardens. Students nicknamed her “Flo” in honor of Florence Nightingale and would dress her in nurses’ uniforms, undergarments, balloons, and towels during graduation time.

Read more milestones in IU Nursing history