"Regional Leaders for Nursing Excellence and Student-centered Education"

In 1966, Judge Harley Langdale, Chairman of the Hospital Authority of Pineview Hospital (now South Georgia Medical Center), approached then President S. Walter Martin of Valdosta State University asking for help in preparing registered nurses for the South Georgia region. After thorough study of the matter, Dr. Martin presented a proposal for a baccalaureate program in nursing to the Chancellor and Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. In September 1967, Valdosta State was authorized to begin the program, effective fall quarter, 1968.

In the spring of 1968, Dr. Edna Jones was employed as Head of the Division of Nursing. In the fall of 1968, twenty-four students were enrolled in the program. Despite difficulty in attracting and keeping faculty, the program was initiated as planned without major problems. In 1971 the division head resigned and Mr. Alex B. McFadden, Assistant Dean of Faculties, directed the program until Mrs. Thera Abbott, a nurse administrator from California, was employed as division head in September 1971. After three months she returned home to California and Mr. Alex B. McFadden again temporarily managed the Division while a search for a new director was launched. In June 1972, the first six students graduated with a BSN degree while the leadership search continued. (Robert Brady, a member of that first graduating class, designed the pin that is worn by all graduates since that time.) 
For information on the pin, click here.

In August 1972, Mrs. Virginia Harmeyer became the Director of the Division of Nursing and, under her strong leadership, the program thrived. In 1977, Mrs. Harmeyer earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction in Higher Education from the University of Texas. Among her many achievements, Dr. Harmeyer led the program to achieve accreditation from the National League for Nursing (now the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission); she was instrumental in establishing the Epsilon Pi chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International, the professional nursing honor society; and obtained a number of federal grants to expand the program. The RN to BSN program was initiated in 1979 and graduated the first graduates in 1981. The Division of Nursing had several "homes" during the early years. First, it was housed in the Fine Arts Building and then moved to the building currently known as Thaxton Hall.

In 1981, Dr. Harmeyer retired and Dr. Patricia Small became the Director of the Division of Nursing; later, after reorganization, she became Dean of the School of Nursing. Dr. Small, whose Doctorate in Higher Education was earned from Indiana University, continued the growth of the program. Under her leadership, the Master of Science in Nursing degree program was initiated, and the first students were admitted in 1983. The baccalaureate program received reaccredidation from the National League for Nursing in 1982. In 1985 the School moved to the present quarters in the Southern Bell building on Patterson Street that was re-named Brookwood Hall. Dr. Small (now Beverstein) resigned in 1989 to travel with her husband who had retired. During the search for a new dean, Dr. Louie Brown, at that time the Vice President for Academic Affairs, was Acting Dean of the College of Nursing.

Dr. Patricia A. Bohannon became Dean of the School of Nursing in September 1989. Her Ph.D. in Oncological Nursing was earned from Texas Women's University. She led the School to further growth and distinction. The School was reorganized and three assistant deans were appointed to head the undergraduate studies, graduate studies/ research, and continuing education departments. In 1990-91, the undergraduate program was reaccredited by the National League for Nursing and initial accreditation of the graduate program by the same association was achieved. Undergraduate admissions were increased to three times each year. During 1994-1995, reports showed that the proportion of nursing faculty with terminal degrees was the highest in the University System and well above the national average. Technology grants brought computers and instructional software to the School, federal training grants were obtained to provide funds for graduate students, and distance learning classes for the RN to BSN students were started in five locations in South Georgia. In addition, the nurse practitioner program was initiated. In 1993, Valdosta State College became a University, and, in 1994, the School of Nursing became a College. Dean Bohannon resigned her position in December 1994 to return to her home state of Texas.

Dr. Frances Brown was appointed as Acting Dean and served in this position until July, 1997. During this period the programs of the College of Nursing were again reaccredited by the National League for Nursing and received the full 8-year approval (2004). Valdosta State University became involved in the statewide Georgia RN/BSN Articulation Model to facilitate the mobility of Registered Nurses who wish to pursue the BSN degree. Brookwood Hall was remodeled to better meet the needs of nursing faculty and students. Dr. Brown retired from the system in 1997 and moved to North Georgia.

The President and selection committee did not go off campus for a permanent dean when one was chosen in July 1997. Dr. MaryAnn B. Reichenbach, who had joined the faculty in 1996 and led the faculty in the process of developing the semester curricula, was named Dean. Dr. Reichenbach had come to VSU from a teaching position at Clemson University where she had served for 12 years. Previously, she had received her Master's and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Pittsburgh in Nursing Care of Children. She inherited a College of Nursing poised for further development. Since her appointment the faculty has implemented the semester curricula, developed "unhurried" or part-time tracks for all three of the nursing programs, initiated one of the first care manager master's degree programs in the country, raised the N-CLEX-RN pass rate for first-time testers, instituted a total testing program from Educational Resources Inc. that is a significant tool in continuous quality improvement activities, increased the utilization of instructional technology and achieved full ten year accreditation for the BSN and MSN programs from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (2001-2011).

In 1999 the contributions of President Emeritus Dr. Martin were recognized by renaming Brookwood Hall, 
S. Walter Martin Hall.

The College faces the twenty first century with enthusiasm and the faculty is clearly focused on achieving the mission of being Regional leaders for nursing education and student-centered education. Both the history of the College and its future reflect continuous and dynamic growth. The College, like nursing, "is real, is life".

NOTE: The history of the College of Nursing is currently being updated in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the College of Nursing. Interviews with past Administrators and Alumnae, and archival collections of photographs and other memorabilia, are being collected. Friends of the College of Nursing are invited to submit information, photographs, news clippings, and their own stories for this work. Please contact Dr. Debbie Weaver at dlweaver@valdosta.edu. We look forward to hearing from you!!