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Historical Perspective, USF College of Nursing
Written by Dr. Joan Gregory


The year of 1965 marked the beginning of another exciting and rich development for the nine year old University of South Florida. This was the year that the Florida Legislature authorized the establishment of the University of South Florida College of Nursing.


After eight years of hard work the new College of Nursing was ready to begin hiring faculty and accepting students. Dr. Gwendoline R. MacDonald, who had been serving as a consultant, was appointed the first Dean of the University of South Florida College of Nursing in February. Nine faculty members were recruited, a curriculum was developed and 41 students were ready to begin learning! And so began the charter class.

Unfortunately, a building dedicated solely to the College of Nursing was a long way off so Dean Macdonald began negotiations and five mobile classrooms were acquired. They are still fondly referred to as "the trailers”.

Within the first year, 12 registered nurses who were graduates of hospital or community college nursing programs were also admitted to the college and began to earn a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Nursing.


Only 18 months after these admissions, the program received a full eight year accreditation from the National League for Nursing. This was a great accomplishment for such a new program. In 1975, the charter class of 41 students received the Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Nursing.


In 1976, the College moved from the trailers to a new building in the Medical Center and the nursing program was expanded to St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Ft. Meyers.


By 1978, a master’s degree program was authorized and in 1980, the charter class of 16 students was admitted to Adult Health Nursing.

Within a year, the College received federal funding to begin a specialty in Gerontology Nursing. Other graduate specialties were added: Psychiatric/ Mental Health, Public Community Health and Oncology.


Dr. Judith A. Plawecki was appointed Dean in 1987. With the faculty’s heightened interest and productivity in scholarship and research, the Office of Research was established.

Federal funding was received to begin a specialty in Family Health nursing.


The journey continued with the opening of the Nurse Managed Clinics: the Center for Elder Health, the Judeo- Christian Health Clinic and Brandon Outreach Clinic. These began in conjunction with the Tampa Bay community and the USF Department of Family Medicine. A doctoral program was then authorized with the charter class of 7 PhD. students admitted.

Dr. Patricia A. Burns was appointed Dean in 1997. Her vision moved us forward on yet another creative journey that included teaching innovations to provide quality learning opportunities to move students forward such as Distance Learning along with web-based and web-blended courses.

Another focus included both short and long range plans for development, thus, the establishment of:

  • The Lewis and Leona Hughes endowed chair in Nursing Informatics
  • The Lyle and Beatrice Thompson Endowed Professorship in Oncology
  • The George and Marian Miller Center for Virtual Learning Center
  • The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Center for Advanced Nursing Education
  • More than 30 scholarships were created by friends of nursing and nursing faculty


With a national shortage of nurses, the College’s undergraduate enrollment expanded to 150 students each year, and a unique model, known as the Clinical Collaborative was born in 2001, with 5 Clinical Teams.

Other innovative programs were initiated:

  • International Education in Nursing
  • Disaster and Bioterrorism
  • B.S. to PhD.
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Doctorate in Nursing Practice

The overall plan included the acquisition of approval and funding to provide adequate space for the growth occurring over a 30 year period. Dean Burns began this endeavor with a well thought out plan. After lengthy discussions, challenging presentations, some frustration and an incredible amount of hope, the college received approval to expand and improve facilities.


Then in 2003, Groundbreaking Ceremonies were held for a new College of Nursing Building.


The dedication for the new building was May 5, 2005.  This is truly something to be proud of!
In 2010, Dean Patricia Burns announced her retirement and Dianne Morrison-Beedy was appointed the new dean of the College of Nursing. Dean Morrison-Beedy brings a new bold vision to the college and is committed to seeing the USF College of Nursing achieve national prominence.

October 9, 2010 marked the first induction of the Gordon Keller alumni as well as the Charter Class of 1975 into the Dean's GEMS Society. The GEMS (Graduates Exemplifying Many Successes) group was established to honor the legacy and preserve the history of the College of Nursing. Each class is inducted into the GEMS Society on the 35th anniversary of their graduation from the College of Nursing. With the creation of the GEMS Society, the College of Nursing Alumni Society continues their efforts to collect memorabilia in the hopes of preserving this legacy.
2011 - Present
Today, the College of Nursing is looking toward the future while making a great effort to honor the past.  2011 brings plans to display memorabilia in cases in the College of Nursing so the current students can see what life was like for a nursing student when the College of Nursing was founded.  We will continue to build our alumni program as more and more nurses graduate from our various programs.  The college has come a long way since 1965 and we wouldn't be where we are without a strong group of students and alumni like you!