Current Issue
100 Years and Counting
Hearing Their Voices
No Wrong Time for the Right Thing
The Future Is Theirs
School Spirit
Guardian Nightingales
A Tradition of Caring
From the Dean
News Briefs
Nursing Notables
Past Issues
Contact Us
Make a Gift
Other Publications
School of Nursing

s the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing celebrates its Centennial this year, it’s only fitting to contemplate the past and the future.
     Over the past century, the school has evolved from a small training school in a 50-bed hospital to a school that now graduates more than 200 baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral students each year. Emory is ranked among the top 10 private US schools of nursing, with the goal of becoming the best private nursing school in the nation.
     The evolution of the School of Nursing
since 1905 features seven moves, three new buildings, nine directors of nursing, nine deans (some interim), and four name changes. The school helped break the gender barrier by introducing more women to a traditionally male campus and the color barrier by graduating Emory’s first African American students.
     When the school celebrated the groundbreaking of the Asbury Circle building (its second building and sixth home) in 1968, Dean Ada Fort reflected on the school’s first 60 years. The first 20 years marked the birth of the school on August 16, 1905, at the Wesley Memorial Hospital Training School for Nurses, located at the corner of Auburn Avenue and Courtland Street in Atlanta (now the site of the Auburn Avenue Research Library of African American Culture and History). The school was a part of the hospital, and both were housed in a renovated mansion known as the Calico House. Directed by Alberta Dozier, the nursing program comprised two years of practical training and some theoretical classroom instruction.
     The second 20-year period began in 1922 when the school and hospital moved to the Emory campus. In 1929, the school moved into its own building, the Florence Candler Harris Home for Nurses (now known as Harris Hall, a coed undergraduate residence hall). In 1932, the school experienced its first name change to Emory University Hospital School of Nursing.
     The third 20-year period that Fort referenced included the school’s third name change to Emory University School of Nursing, when the school separated from the hospital and became an independent school of the university, led by Dean Julia Miller, in 1944. During this period, the school established its baccalaureate and graduate programs, Fort began her 25-year tenure as dean, and the Alpha Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International, the honorary society for nurses, was founded.
     The school was just entering its fourth 20-year period at the time of its 1968 building groundbreaking, shortly after the school was renamed for Nell Hodgson Woodruff, the wife of Coca-Cola magnate and Emory philanthropist Robert Woodruff. Although she left nursing school to marry Mr. Woodruff in 1912, Nell remained committed to nursing throughout her life, primarily through voluntary service to the American Red Cross and Emory. The school built the Asbury Circle building and with the move created a new BSN curriculum that focused on a specific nursing model to include basic nursing concepts and processes combined with clinical practice experience.


t the 1968 groundbreaking, Fort noted that throughout each period of the school’s history, one constant remained: “A belief that the only way a school of nursing can contribute toward producing the greatest nurse is that it provide for the total development of the person who is to be that great nurse.”
     “This unchanging belief,” she added, “has been the element which has made these 60 years one progressive movement.” (Excerpted from
Emory Magazine, March-April 1968.)
     After Fort retired, that “progressive movement” continued under deans Edna Grexton, Clair Martin, and Dyanne Affonso. Today, under Dean Marla Salmon, Emory is among the nation’s top private schools of nursing.
     In the past five years alone, the school has risen eight notches in the US News & World Report national rankings to 26th overall and 8th among private schools of nursing, with its graduate nurse-midwifery program ranked 7th nationwide. The school also has leapt to No. 18 in research funding from the National Institutes
of Health. In the same time frame, the school graduated its first PhD student; established the Lillian Carter Center for International Nursing; began the federally funded Center for Research on Symptoms, Symptom Interactions, and Health Outcomes; created the first simulation training laboratory on campus; and hosted two global conferences involving top government nurse and physician leaders from 70 countries.
     “As we continue to be on the upswing, our aspiration is not only to be great, but to be the best in our commitment to care for others,” says Salmon. “What sets our school apart from others is our commitment not only to scholarship and leadership, but also to social responsibility.”
     In this goal of “becoming the best,” the emphasis is on what Emory University President James Wagner calls “contributory” rather than “competitive excellence.” As Wagner explains, “[We want] to practice a meaningful excellence, a contributing excellence . . . [that] advances whatever it touches. It changes the way other people think. It changes the way other people do things.”
     While the term “contributory excellence” may be new, the concept of collaboration and leadership toward the betterment of all is not new to the School of Nursing or to the nursing profession. Inherent in being a nurse, especially an Emory nurse, is the drive to do good through innovative care, research, education, leadership, and service to vulnerable populations. This concept of contributory excellence, of transforming the world through care—of being a leader, a contributor, a collaborator—is what will shape the School of Nursing and the nursing profession in the century to come.

Amy Comeau is director of communications for
the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

Wesley Memorial Hospital and Training School for Nurses opened in Atlanta on August 16 after being chartered a year earlier by the Methodist Church. The 50-bed hospital and training school were located in the Calico House, an antebellum mansion located at the corner of Courtland Street and Auburn Avenue, just one block from Wesley Memorial Church.


The first class of 10 students (shown below with staff) graduated from Wesley Memorial Hospital’s Training School for Nurses. Bertha Eckhart, a transfer student from Washington, DC, was the first graduate in 1906.


Alberta Dozier (later Williamson) became superintendent of the hospital and director of the nursing school, serving in both roles until 1923. A member of the American Red Cross who was active in organizing the Emory Unit in World War I, Dozier was a strong guiding force in the early days of the nursing school.


Nell Hodgson withdrew from nursing school in Athens, Georgia, to marry Robert Woodruff, future leader of The Coca-Cola Company. The Woodruffs became staunch supporters of Emory University. Nell Woodruff served as a volunteer nurse with the American Red Cross during both world wars, often working in the maternity ward.


Dozier changed the two-year training program to a three-year diploma program. Wesley Memorial Hospital Alumnae was organized, serving as the grassroots level of the American Nurses Association. Dozier insisted that all graduates become members of the professional organization.


Wesley Memorial Hospital and its Training School for Nurses moved to a new hospital building on the Emory campus. The hospital and nursing school were renamed Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital School of Nursing in 1932.


The first class graduated from Wesley Memorial Hospital Training School for Nurses on the Emory campus. During the 1920s, the US government selected the school as one of only eight schools in the country to lead in the development of university-based education in nursing.


The Florence Candler Harris Home for Nurses opened next to Emory University Hospital. Italian Renaissance in design, the Harris nurses home included suites for nursing faculty, offices, classrooms, laboratories, and living quarters for student nurses, who had been living in the hospital. Harris was a longtime volunteer with the Methodist Church, the hospital, and the nursing school. She had three brothers, including Coca-Cola founder Asa Candler, who donated the land and $1 million to establish Emory University in 1915.

Timeline continued on Hearing Their Voices

Copyright © Emory University, 2005. All Rights Reserved