When I joined Graceland in 2017, I was acutely aware of the tradition of excellence that has existed as a part of this university’s DNA. One area that has been a shining example of that excellence for more than 50 years is the nursing program.
Initiated in 1910 as a partnership with the Independence Sanitarium and Hospital Diploma School of Nursing, the Graceland nursing program’s heritage dates back almost as far as the university itself. In the 1968-69 academic year, a brave group of junior students enrolled as Graceland’s first class of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) candidates, graduating two years later in 1971.
As we celebrate the 50th year of that class, I am inspired by the rich legacy our nursing students and faculty have brought to Graceland over the years. The brave and big thinking of people like Margaret McKevit, the first chair of the Division of Nursing and former trustee; Dr. Barbara Higdon, Graceland’s president from 1984-91; and Dr. Sherri Kirkpatrick, Graceland’s first Vice President and Dean of Nursing, laid a path for future generations of nursing students and for Graceland’s community.
We reflect on the past and stand in the present of our nursing program, well-aware that the future before us is one that will challenge us in new ways. We are inspired to conceive new and creative visions in allied health and other areas in which Graceland can continue to grow to meet the increasing needs of the community we serve and in the world we live.
Look how far we’ve come since the Graceland University School of Nursing first offered a bachelor’s degree! Our distance learning program led the way for existing nurses seeking to earn their BSN. Thousands of students from around the country have participated in our online programs over the years, and nursing students now have the ability to not only pursue their master’s degree, but they can now get their Doctor of Nursing Practice degree through Graceland’s only available doctoral program.
With all we’ve accomplished over the past 50 years, I am so excited to see what the next 50 years might bring as we continue to innovate and lead the way — not just in nursing, but in all Graceland’s academic programs.
Patricia H. Draves, PhD