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School of Nursing

very Monday night, the “Guardian Nightingales” gather for dinner in the large dining room at Clairmont Place, the residential community across from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a mile from the School of Nursing of which all are alumni.
     “Rose Dilday and I are only honorary alumni,” explains Dr. Elizabeth Mabry. “We didn’t graduate from this nursing school before we joined the faculty, but I learned more at Emory than I ever did in my original school!” The other three alumni—Edith Honeycutt, 39N, 04H, Betty Daniels, 51N, 67MN, and Patsy Getz 52N, 58MN—are all past presidents of the Nurses Alumni Association.
     Now in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, the five spend days and many evenings with family and friends—and fulfilling Georgia Nurses Association responsibilities, attending advisory committee meetings to improve care at the assisted living facility in their community, “acting” as geriatric patients to help teach Emory medical students, volunteering at Emory’s Center for Rehabilitation Medicine and the Winship Cancer Institute, lecturing to Emory nursing students and assisting them with service-learning projects, advising former nursing colleagues, teaching their Clairmont Place neighbors how to take their own blood pressure or give their own B12 shots, and providing emergency nursing care on occasion. Their strong nursing backgrounds and organizational skills have become a resource for their community as well as a continuing gift to the nursing school. But no matter how busy they are, Monday nights belong to the Guardian Nightingales.

ne of the first hematology/oncology nurses at Emory, Honeycutt is best known as the nurse handpicked to care for members of four generations of the Woodruff family and for her close relationship with Nell Hodgson Woodruff, for whom the nursing school is named. Today, two Emory nursing professors hold Edith F. Honeycutt Chairs in Nursing—the only chair in the nation to honor a staff nurse. Retiring after the death of Coca-Cola leader Robert W. Woodruff in 1985, Honeycutt remained active in the life of the nursing school. When she moved into her Clairmont Place condominium in 1993, she didn’t realize she would be starting a small nursing school wing of her own.
     Four years later, in 1997, Professor Rose Dilday arrived. A faculty member from 1964 to 1984, Dilday revolutionized the school’s new mental health and psychiatric nursing program and established an impaired nurse program in Georgia that quickly became a national model.
     Daniels and Getz moved to Clairmont Place in 2002, further entwining the connections with Emory and raising the volume at the Monday night dinner table. (“The other residents often tell us they wish they had a microphone to know what we are laughing about,” says Daniels.) Daniels and Getz were undergraduate nursing students together in the early 1950s, taught by Mabry and in awe of the legendary Honeycutt. Later, Daniels was one of the first students in the mental health master’s program led by Dilday. After graduating as one of only 11 master’s-prepared nurses in the field in Georgia, Daniels chose to remain at the Georgia Mental Health Institute and teach nursing students at Emory and in the diploma program at Crawford Long Hospital. She retired in 1995.
     Getz became a faculty member when she completed her master’s degree and taught in the adult health program headed by Mabry. After teaching for several years, Getz practiced nursing in orthopaedics and rheumatology and then became a clinical nurse specialist in the the Center for Rehabilitation Medicine and other Emory facilities.
     During Getz’s last job—still ongoing as a volunteer—as research coordinator with Wesley Woods’ Center for Health in Aging, Clairmont Place let her set up a gym to study the effect of testosterone and exercise on muscle mass. Recalls Dilday, “When Patsy moved here in 2002, all the men rushed up to hug her.”
     The last to arrive, in 2003, was Mabry. In 1948, Julia Miller, the first dean of Emory University School of Nursing, hired Mabry sight unseen because of her then-rare science training. With time out to follow her husband’s career and complete her University of Georgia doctorate, Mabry taught until 1987. Her devoted former students recently established a School of Nursing scholarship in her name.
     With these five in residence, Clairmont Place has never been the same. Some are board members, and four of the five chair or work with committees in the organization. All play hard, with
sizable representation in the Clairmont Crooners, Line Dancers, and Lifeline Writer’s Group.

ogether, the alumni at Clairmont Place span almost 70 years of nursing school history. Other colleagues and friends from the nursing school often stop by for the famous Monday night dinners. Mary Gaskell Bieber served on the faculty in the late 1940s. Harriet McDonald, 32N, 51N, 57MN, is a part-time resident, traveling between Atlanta and Australia. Alumna Jennie Huckabee, 30N, has become too frail to meet with her younger classmates, but the group keeps up with her and monitors her health.
     Perhaps because they have seen and contributed to the legacy of the School of Nursing, the Guardian Nightingales are enthusiastic about the school’s Centennial. One way they continue to invest in the future is by partnering with junior nursing students who come to Clairmont Place to conduct health fairs for residents. The students also work with residents to conduct a “risk for falls” assessment. Using an assessment tool they developed, the students help residents identify and correct safety hazards in their condos to prevent falls and injuries.
     “These alumni really inspired our students,” says clinical instructor Corrine Abraham. “Being able to work with such seasoned and well-respected nurses, and then seeing how much the residents appreciated the services they provided, gave the students a great deal of confidence at this early stage in their own nursing careers.”
     These luminary alumni are proud of what the students and the nursing school have accomplished. The sentiment goes both ways, according to Dean Marla Salmon. “The school owes much to the legacy and continuing commitment of these Guardian Nightingales.”

Sylvia Wrobel is a frequent contributor to Emory’s health sciences publications.

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