School of Nursing will host 75th anniversary gala Sept. 23

Dr. Carol Polifroni, current Dean of the School of Nursing, said that this event is in recognition of the progress made since the founding of the School of Nursing, but that she also hopes the celebration will serve as a reminder that there is further work to be done in the field. (Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

The faculty and staff of the University of Connecticut’s School of Nursing are currently in the process of preparing for a celebratory gala that will take place on Sept. 23 in Hartford to honor the school’s 75th anniversary.

Dr. Carol Polifroni, current Dean of the School of Nursing, said that the gala will take place at the Hartford Marriott.

Polifroni said that this event is in recognition of the progress made since the founding of the School of Nursing, but that she also hopes the celebration will serve as a reminder that there is further work to be done in the field.

“Part of the focus (of the gala) is that we’re celebrating our 75th year, but positioning ourselves for the next 75 years,” Polifroni said.

Polifroni also said that 75 “Difference Makers” will be honored during the event.

“(Difference makers) are people, or organizations, who have been identified through a small committee...that have made a difference in the School of Nursing in some capacity over the past 75 years,” Polifroni said.

She said that a number of these Difference Makers are people who have donated generous amounts of money to support scholarships for nursing students.

Polifroni also said that the keynote speaker for the gala will be Regina Barreca, an American academic and humorist who is also a professor of English literature and feminist theory at UConn.

“She will be talking about how nurses are more resilient than diamonds,” Polifroni said.

She said that in her opinion, the most valuable aspect of the evening is its focus on the recognition of work that’s been done in the nursing field throughout the past 75 years.

“It’s a culmination of recognition (for) the journey that we’ve been on,” she said.

Dr. Thomas Long, the historian for the School of Nursing, also weighed in on this journey.

Long is the curator of the Josephine A. Dolan nursing history collection, and has recently completed the construction of a nursing timeline in the Widmer Wing Atrium of the School of Nursing in celebration of its 75th anniversary.  

Long said that the fields of professional nursing and nursing education have existed for about 150 years, which makes the UConn School of Nursing’s 75th anniversary significant.

“75 years may not seem terribly long, but...that’s half the history of nursing, and half the history of nursing education,” Long said.

Long said that in celebration of this anniversary, several exhibits have been installed in the Atrium to honor accomplishments in the field of nursing that have been made in the past 75 years.

He said that these exhibits include a display case containing historical UConn School of Nursing student uniforms, the timeline of nursing history Long constructed, various artifacts from the school’s archives and a showcase dedicated to the life and career of the first Dean of the School of Nursing, Carolyn Ladd Widmer.

Long said that he enjoyed the research he did to contribute to these exhibits.

“My favorite part was serendipitous discoveries,” he said. “Stumbling across things, coming across things.”

Long said that the most important development that has occurred in the field of nursing throughout the past 75 years is the professionalization of nursing as a study.

He also said that he hoped the next 75 years would hold further professionalization and diversification throughout the discipline as a whole.

“Nursing has to reflect more robustly all of the forms of diversity in the United States,” Long said.

He said that the celebratory gala set for Sept. 23 will be a moment to look back on the progress that has been made in the field of nursing, while looking ahead at developments to come.

Polifroni said that the purpose of the event will be to “focus on where we’ve been and to steer us and guide us to where we want to be in the future.”

She said that in addition to it being the 75th anniversary of the School of Nursing as a whole, this year also marks the 10th anniversary of the school’s study abroad program as well as the 15th anniversary of the conception of the accelerated program for non-nurse college graduates.

“It’s been an exciting year, but it doesn’t stop here,” she said.


Annie Stachura is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at annie.stachura@uconn.edu.