First Nursing Majors Graduate

Nothing, not the temperature nor the overcast skies nor the occasional drizzle, could dampen the spirits of the 12 pioneer graduates of the St. Luke’s Commemorative School of Nursing at Moravian College.

The day before Commencement, the students, their parents, the nursing faculty, and a host of dignitaries from the College and St. Luke’s Hospital and Health Network gathered to celebrate a threefold success story:

• Accreditation. One of the oddities of nursing accreditation is that initial approval isn’t granted until the first class is ready to graduate from the program. Moravian’s program was approved May 6, little more than a week before Commencement, by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, an agency charged by the U.S. Department of Education with oversight of nursing-education programs.

• Achievement. The first students entered an untested program in 1999, taking it on faith that it would provide them with an education and a future. The program, designed by department chairman Janet A. Sipple and her charter faculty of eight full-time and two visiting professors, is unique in its holistic approach to the profession. Courses such as “Quest into the Phenomenology of Nursing” encourage students to think of their work “three-dimensionally,” as practitioners, counselors, educators, advocates, and health-care coordinators, rather than dividing the field into linear areas such as age groups (pediatric) or types of care (oncology, surgery).

• Accomplishment. Of the dozen graduates, three (Regina Lacombe, Erica Miller, and Nicole Spangler) completed Honors projects and five graduated cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude. Regina also was president for two years of United Student Government. Almost the entire class walked off the stage into jobs: five at St. Luke’s in Bethlehem, two at Children’s Hospital and one at Hahneman University Hospital in Philadelphia, and one in a hospital in Connecticut. Allen Smith III, the first R.N. (graduate of a two-year diploma program) to return to school and complete the Bachelor of Science, will continue at Lehigh Valley Hospital, where he has been employed all along. Allen also won the George Tyler Award, “given to a Division of Continuing and Graduate Studies student for academic excellence, contribution to the institution, a profession, or the community, and triumph over difficult circumstances encountered in pursuing a college degree.” Nicole won the newly established Priscilla Payne Hurd Prize in Nursing and Lauren Beth Spencer the new St. Luke’s Hospital Award for Nursing Practice Excellence.

The School of Nursing gave its first nursing pin to Priscilla Payne Hurd, chairman of Moravian College’s Board of Trustees and a life trustee of St. Luke’s Hospital, where her gifts include an eight-story patient wing. It was her donation that enabled the School of Nursing to open its doors at Moravian.

A guest of honor at the celebration and at Commencement was Margaret McClure ’61, a graduate of Moravian’s first nursing program. The College awarded her an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in tribute to her significant career as a nursing educator and hospital administrator at New York University.