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Office of the Dean, School of Nursing, 1967-

Immediate Predecessor:

School of Nursing, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa , 1950-1967

Immediate Successor:


Reporting Hierarchy:

1967-1968: School of Nursing, Vice President for Birmingham Affairs, President of UA;
1968-1969: School of Nursing, Executive Vice President, President of UA;
1969-1995: School of Nursing, Vice President for Health Affairs, President of UAB;
1995- : School of Nursing, Provost, President of UAB


Florence A. Hixson, 1967-1970 (1950-1967 in Tuscaloosa )
Marie L. O'Koren, 1970-1987
Rachel Z. Booth, 1987-2005
Doreen C. Harper, 2005-2022
(Interim) Linda Moneyham, 2022
Maria Rodriquez Shirey, 2022-


During August of 1967, the faculty and students of The University of Alabama School of Nursing were moved from the main campus in Tuscaloosa to the campus of the University's Medical Center in Birmingham . This was not the nursing school's first presence in the Medical Center. In fact, since 1953 faculty and students had been located in Birmingham where students gained clinical experience and training within the university-supported hospital and Medical Center.

The move of the nursing school was not an entirely knew idea, however. The "Duckett Jones Report," which had been presented to university president Oliver Carmichael in 1954, first recommended that the nursing school be moved to Birmingham and integrated within the other components of the Medical Center. In the early 1960s, the Visiting Committee of the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools had recommended to President Frank Rose that "all aspects of the relationship between the Medical College and the School of Nursing be examined and strengthened where possible." Finally, in 1966 Rose's presidentially appointed committee, comprised of university and Medical Center personnel, also recommended that the nursing school be moved to Birmingham so that the school could "function as a major part of the Medical Center" (Annual Report, 1966-1967).

The Alabama State Legislature had authorized and appropriated funding for the state's first baccalaureate nursing program in 1949, the school itself had been established in 1950 on The University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa. The first dean, Dr. Florence A. Hixson, was hired in 1950 and her first class of 17 nursing students was admitted in September 1950. During the first term, Dean Hixson was the school's only faculty member (Annual Report, 1950-1951) for the 11 baccalaureate and six nurse graduate students.

The School of Nursing began as a four-year undergraduate program. Students spent two school years on the Tuscaloosa campus taking courses in general education. Two summer sessions and the remaining two school years were spent in hospitals and public health agencies around the state. In its first years, the school offered three program degrees: Program 1, an advanced supplementary program for graduate nurses, led to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Education and prepared students for clinical teaching, supervision, ward management, and advanced clinical nursing; Program 2, a basic undergraduate course, led to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing for professional nurses; and Program 3, a program for the seven nursing schools based in state hospitals, led to the centralized teaching of the biological and social sciences in the hospital schools (Annual Report, 1950-1951, 1951-1952). Hixson had developed the three programs based upon requests from the directors of hospital nursing programs and from alumni of the hospital programs (Statement). As these three programs prospered in the early years, requests were also received for a nursing master's program. The first program on the master's level, which led to the degree of Master of Science in Nursing, was begun during the Fall of 1955.

On January 10, 1952, during the school's second term, Miss Lyndon M. McCarroll became the second faculty member. The following month, Mrs. Solon Kimball joined the nursing school's fledgling two-member faculty. In July of 1952, the fourth faculty member, Mercedes Pittman, was hired. Even with this small faculty, the school was granted a five-year temporary accreditation from the National Nursing Accrediting Service on May 14, 1952. The accreditation was temporary because full accreditation could only be received once a class of senior students was enrolled (Annual Report, 1951-1952).

The very first degree, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, was awarded to Eunice White in June of 1951. By the end of the summer of 1952, 10 bachelor's degrees had been awarded through the School of Nursing (Annual Report, 1951-1952). Twenty-five additional bachelor's degrees would be awarded before the end of 1954, and the first baccalaureate class would receive their nursing degrees in February of 1954 (Annual Report, 1953-1954). The first master's degree would be awarded in 1956.

The nursing school was first housed in Graves Hall, home of the School of Education and Human Sciences, and consisted entirely of borrowed classroom space and one office. In the Fall of 1950, renovations began on a small house located near University Hospital that had previously housed male law students. The school moved from Graves Hall into this small building in January of 1951 but the space was insufficient for the growing school. In August of 1955, the nursing school was moved into the newly renovated Little Hall. Located adjacent to the President's Mansion, Little Hall had previously served as the men's gymnasium. This building would be the school's home until the 1967 move to Birmingham.

Although located on the Tuscaloosa campus, from the beginning the School of Nursing also offered instruction in the university's extension centers in Birmingham, Gadsden, Montgomery, and Mobile (Annual Report, 1951-1952). Additionally, faculty members would offer instruction, or supervise locally hired instructors, at hospitals and institutions around the state, including the Perry County Hospital, the Tuscaloosa County Health Department, and the Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Decatur . Other facilities, such as the Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa and Children's Hospital and the Crippled Children's Hospital in Birmingham, provided the means for nursing students to gain their required clinical experiences (Annual Report, 1953-1954).

In April of 1953, Dean Hixson and Medical College dean James Durrett agreed that nursing students would be sent for clinical experience in medical, surgical, and obstetric nursing into the university's Jefferson-Hillman Hospital, located in the Birmingham Medical Center. The first nursing students were sent to the hospital on June 8, 1953 (Annual Report, 1952-1953). By 1955 three nursing faculty and a part-time secretary were also located in the hospital to assist students during their clinical training at the Medical Center (Annual Report, 1955-1956). Space was provided for the students and faculty where ever it could be found in university buildings and in borrowed or leased facilities adjacent to the Medical Center.

The school experienced much growth and development during its first years in Tuscaloosa. In September of 1956 the school received full accreditation of all its programs, including the baccalaureate basic, general nursing, and master's programs. At the time, the school had 12 full-time faculty members (Annual Report, 1956-1957). The number of faculty members and part-time instructors continued to grow throughout the late 1950s, and on August 23, 1958, the school's future dean, Marie L. O'Koren, was appointed an instructor of Medical-Surgical Nursing. She had been awarded a master's degree from the school earlier that year (Annual Report 1958-1959).

In addition to the growth in faculty and students, the number of programs offered by the school also continued to grow. By the end of 1959, the school had developed several nursing program specialties, including a program in Administration of Nursing Education in 1955, a program in the Teaching of Maternal and Child Health Nursing in 1957, and a program in Psychiatric Nursing Education in 1959. With the start of the 1960s, Dean Hixson and her faculty concentrated on revising and updating the school's curriculum. Begun in 1964, the new curriculum was based entirely on the semester system, and it contained a larger proportion of general, or liberal arts, education than the former, which was phased out as the new curriculum was implemented. As the new curriculum was implemented, the old clinical teaching areas began to develop into the more traditional academic departments. The first to gain departmental status was that of maternal and child health nursing in September of 1965 (Annual Report, 1964-1965).

The late 1950s and early 1960s also held growth for the school's programs and student enrollment at the Medical Center . In November 1959 the school's Birmingham faculty were moved into renovated space in the recently acquired Salvation Army Building. They quickly outgrew the limited space and again had to resort to borrowed or leased space (Annual Report, 1959-1960). Space for students also continued to be a problem, even after the new nursing dormitory was completed in 1962 for students from both the school and the hospital-based nursing school (Annual Report, 1962-1963).

While the school experienced growth in enrollment and programs, and while the Medical Center-based divisions continued to be plagued with space problems, discussions once again turned to the old idea of moving the school from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham. Upon the advice of the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and the presidential committee, President Rose and the Board of Trustees agreed that the Tuscaloosa school should be moved to Birmingham and the Medical Center effective September 1, 1967 (Annual Report, 1966-1967). Once the decision was made, the move was undertaken as planned even though the nursing school had no designated facilities in which to move for housing or instruction.

When the School of Nursing was moved, the school had 31 full- and 9 part-time faculty members. Student enrollment stood at over 300 in Birmingham, an additional 60 freshman and sophomore students elected to remain on the Tuscaloosa campus in a pre-nursing program (Annual Report, 1967-1968). With this enrollment, it soon became apparent that University Hospital and the Medical Center could not provide enough clinical experience, classroom space, and student housing for both the school and the hospital-based nursing school. The University's administration therefore made the decision to phase out the hospital-based school and the University Hospital School of Nursing graduated its last class in 1969.

Even as the plans to move the nursing school to Birmingham were being finalized in 1967, Hixson, Associate Dean Marie O'Koren, and university administration were requesting building construction funds for a new educational facility in the Medical Center . The Professional Nurse Training Act of 1964 had provided Federal monies for the construction of nursing education buildings, and university administration was well aware of the school's pressing space needs. The grant application was completed by Dr. O'Koren in February of 1967, and the notification of the award of the grant was received by the university in June of 1967 (Statement). A symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for the new School of Nursing Building was held July 30, 1968, and, when completed in 1971, the four-story building contained classrooms, a Learning Resources Center , and an administrative office tower. For the first time in the 18 years of their presence in the Medical Center , the nursing faculty and students, as well as offices and classrooms, were housed in the same building. The state-of-the-art Learning Resources Center would even serve as a model for other nursing schools from around the Southeast (Alumni News, 1987).

As construction progressed on the new nursing building, Dean Florence Hixson, who had founded the school in Tuscaloosa and moved with it to Birmingham , announced her retirement effective June 30, 1970. She was succeeded by Associate Dean Marie O'Koren, a school alumnae and long-time faculty member. When Dean O'Koren began her tenure, the school had 42 faculty members, 37 of whom were full-time; a student enrollment of over 630, 45 of whom were graduate students; and an annual budget of over $471,000 (Annual Report, 1970-1971). Within five years, the school had moved into the new building, the number of faculty had risen to almost 80, the curriculum had been completely revised, a doctoral program had been approved, and the school had celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Approved by The University of Alabama Board of Trustees on June 18, 1975, the Doctor of Science in Nursing program was the only doctoral nursing program in the Southeast (Annual Report, 1974-1975). The program had three components: nursing, research, and functional preparation for a role as educator, administrator or consultant (Annual Report, 1977-1978). The first students were enrolled in the program in January of 1976 and the first doctoral degree was awarded in 1979.

In September of 1975, the traditional clinical departments, Fundamentals of Nursing, Pediatric Nursing, Maternity Nursing, Medical-Surgical Nursing, Psychiatric Nursing, Community Health Nursing, and Administration and Supervision in Nursing, were "disbanded" and replaced with a level-based curriculum equivalent to year of study or achievement. Levels I-IV concerned the baccalaureate years, Level V the graduate, and Levels VI-VIII the doctoral (Annual Report, 1974-1975).

Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dean O'Koren and her faculty worked to increase the student enrollment and to build upon the existing programs of the nursing school. By 1981, the total faculty numbered 134 and the total student enrollment, including part-time and doctoral students, numbered 889 (Annual Report, 1981-1982). As a result of this tremendous growth, several additions to the School of Nursing Building were planned and completed during this same period. These additions provided much-needed classroom and instruction space, offices for each faculty member, and space for the expanding graduate programs.

Dean O'Koren's retirement from the school was effective September 1, 1987, and she was succeeded by Dr. Rachel Booth. Recruited to UAB from Duke University , Dr. Booth became nursing's third dean effective November 1, 1987. Dean Booth also presided over a growing school within the Academic Health Center, as the Medical Center began to be known in the early 1990s. Total student enrollment had increased to 915 by 1992. The two-story West Addition to the School of Nursing Building was completed in 1992. And, in March of 1993 the school was named as only the sixth U.S.-based World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for International Nursing. The WHO nursing center, with its purpose to "promote the goals of WHO, especially the goal of Health for All: Year 2000," was formally dedicated during ceremonies at the school on October 15, 1993 (Annual Report, 1992-1993, 1993-1994).

Dean Booth and her faculty continued to revise and update the curriculum of the school, and to adapt to the numerous changes in both the academic health center setting and the health-care environment. Effective July 1, 1994, the school's four-level (I-IV) administrative structure and curriculum was discontinued and a two-level (junior year/senior year) structure was initiated (Annual Report, 1993-1994). A revised master's program "was implemented to prepare advanced practice nurses for a reformed health care system" (Annual Report, 1995-1996).

By 1995 the nursing school had 64 full-time faculty members and a total student enrollment of 780, even after state appropriations to the school had been reduced by 7.7 percent. The largest one-year extramural research grant in the school's history, over $750,000, was awarded in 1995. In an attempt to prepare the school for the 21st Century, on August 24, 1995, Dean Booth appointed a five-member Vision Task Force 2005. Its mandate was to examine the school and develop a vision for the future (Annual Report, 1995-1996). From this effort, Dean Booth would later spearhead the creation of a PhD in nursing program, the first in the state of Alabama ; the first students enrolled in the new PhD program in 1999.

Instruction in the nursing school also changed with the technological advances of the decade. In 1994 the school's baccalaureate program was ranked 15 in the nation, and the graduate program was ranked 21 by U.S. News & World Report (Annual Report, 1994-1995). From the early 1990s, the school offered several courses over The University of Alabama System's Intercampus Interactive and Telecommunications System (IITS). The former Regional Technical Institute (RTI) facility at UAB was renovated for use as a combined Learning Resources Center for the nursing and health-related professions schools. The renovation of RTI was completed in 1998, and the facility was renamed the School of Health Related Professions/School of Nursing Learning Resources Center Building.

The year 2000 was a year of commemoration as the nursing school celebrated its 50th anniversary, and the publication of a history of the school documented the dramatic changes that had occurred over five decades. From borrowed classroom and a single office, from a one-person faculty, and from a student enrollment of 17, The University of Alabama School of Nursing currently functions as an integral component of the Academic Health Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham . It is, in addition, an internationally known nursing program that has been recognized as one of the best nursing schools in the United States.

Early in 2005, Dr. Rachel Booth announced plans to retire as the third dean of the nursing school at the end of the summer after a tenure of almost 18 years. During her tenure, the school’s endowment had grown to over $8 million and was then funding 40 scholarships annually. The fall 2004 enrollment for all nursing students was 589. In addition, the school was ranked 17th in research funding from the National Institutes of Health. At the completion of a national search, Dr. Doreen Harper was named dean on September 2, with an appointment date effective on November 1, 2005. Harper received a bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Cornell University, a master’s degree from Catholic University in Washington, DC, and a doctorate from the University of Maryland. Prior to her recruitment to UAB, Harper served for five years as the dean of the Graduate School of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts-Worcester. During her tenure at Worcester, grant and research funding increased from just more than $250,000 in 2000 to more than $2 million in 2005.  When Harper retired in January 2022, faculty member Dr. Linda Moneyham served briefly as interim dean of the nursing school.  On June 1, 2022, Dr. Maria Shirey, a long-time member of the school faculty, became the School of Nursing's fifth dean. At her appointment, Dr. Shirey was serving as the school's associate dean for Clinical and Global Partnerships, and she had previously chaired the school's Department of Acute, Chronic and Continuing Care.

This page created 1998 and last updated by Tim L. Pennycuff on 5 December 2022.

Copyright: The University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

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