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Since its first class graduated in 1964, the University of Kentucky College of Nursing has modeled innovation and excellence in nursing education. The program has prepared thousands of nurses, men and women who have helped lead our country’s health care system as caregivers, executive leaders, effective teachers, trail-blazing researchers, policymakers and community transformers.

The following timeline chronicles the development of the UK College of Nursing:

1956: Kentucky legislators approve building a new medical center on the University of Kentucky campus.

1957: Dr. William R. Willard, founding dean of the Albert B. Chandler Medical Center and dean of the UK College of Medicine, proposes the idea of a College of Nursing in response to the realization that nurses are in short supply. Dr. Willard’s college would offer two programs: one for high school graduates and one for registered nurses.

1958: With the idea of the College of Nursing coming to fruition, Dr. Willard finds a dean in 35-year-old Dr. Marcia Allene Dake, a doctorate of education student at Columbia University’s Teachers College. She becomes the youngest nursing school dean in the nation.

1960: In May of 1960, the College of Nursing enrolls 35 women who comprise the first class. Of these women, five are registered nurses, while the remaining 30 are just beginning their education. At the time, this was the only undergraduate program at UK to have a selective admissions policy.

1962: During the next two years, College of Nursing enrollment more than doubles from 35 in 1960 to 74 in 1962.

1963: To address the program's growth, Dr. Dake teams up with Henderson Community College to create an associate degree program. Once the program at Henderson is successfully established, programs are opened at community colleges in Lexington. They then spread to Covington and Elizabethtown.

1964: The College of Nursing graduates its first class. As an established part of the University of Kentucky Medical Center, the College is now offering not only an undergraduate program, but also a continuing education program and associate degree programs.

1965: Dr. Dake receives a telegram announcing full accreditation for the College of Nursing from the National League for Nursing (NLN). With the expanding reach of the College of Nursing and the success of additional associate degree programs, Dr. Dake begins creating a graduate program within the College of Nursing with the hope of eventually producing nurses with the qualifications to become professors.

1967: Four years after the first partnership was established, more than 30 percent of new nurses in Kentucky are graduating from one of the associate degree programs.

1969: Faculty Senate approves the master’s program, and the first class of nine students enrolls.

1971: Dr. Dake resigns as dean of the College of Nursing. During her tenure, she and her colleagues helped establish a new curriculum that spread nationwide during the 1960s and 1970s. By the time Dr. Dake resigns, enrollment in the College of Nursing has grown nearly 350 percent, from 35 women in 1964 to 512 undergraduate students in 1971.

1972: Dr. Marion McKenna is appointed dean of the College of Nursing. Aware of the exponential growth the College of Nursing is facing, Dr. McKenna is hired on the condition that a new facility be created to house her school. The first African American BSN student, Marsha Hughes-Rease, graduates from the program.

1974: The first African American MSN students, Katherine Detherage and Alalia Mack, graduate from the program. The first male BSN student, Gerald Graham, also graduates.

1975: Construction for the new College of Nursing building begins across from UK HealthCare on Rose Street. The College establishes nursing programs at Hazard Community College and Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro in hopes of making nursing education accessible to nontraditional and rural students.

1976: The first male MSN student, Daniel Luchtefeld, graduates from the program.

1979: Dr. McKenna proposes the discontinuation of the baccalaureate program to focus solely on training registered nurses. However, the plan is not successful, and the original basic baccalaureate program is reinstated in May 1981.

1980: The Delta Psi chapter of Sigma Theta Tau is established at UK. Later in the year, Dr. McKenna begins establishing a doctoral program in the College of Nursing.

1984: The College of Nursing announces Dr. Carolyn Williams as the new dean. Dr. Williams stresses the importance of research and publishing and emphasizes they will be required as the college continues to advance.

1985: Dr. Williams’s PhD program is approved.

1987: Four doctoral students enroll; six more join in the spring.

1992: The first class of five doctorate students graduates with PhDs.

1994: The first African American PhD student, Vickie Hines-Martin, graduates from the program.

1999: The College of Nursing BSN and MSN Programs receive accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

2001: The College of Nursing begins to offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program, the first in the nation. The DNP Program prepares nurses for advanced practice, clinical leadership and executive positions in health care systems. The first class of DNP students graduates in 2005. The Linda C. Gill Chair in Nursing is established.

2002: The Good Samaritan Chair in Community Health Nursing is established. The first male PhD student, Steven Talbert, graduates from the program.

2003: The Marcia A. Dake Professorship in Nursing Science is established.

2004: The first class of second degree BSN students is admitted.

2005: The first African American DNP student, Tukea Talbert, graduates from the program.

2006: Dr. Williams resigns as dean and rejoins the faculty. Dr. Jane Kirschling becomes the fourth dean of the College of Nursing.

2006: The PhD program begins its Post-BSN Option, which builds on the BSN degree and prepares nurse researchers at the doctoral level.

2007: The College of Nursing inducts its first class into its Hall of Fame. The College successfully doubles undergraduate student enrollment in the BSN program – from 80 students to 160 students – in an effort to alleviate nursing shortages in Kentucky and across the nation. The first BSN-PhD Option students were admitted.

2008: The first male DNP student, Robert Cornette, graduates from the program.

2009: The Masters of Science in Nursing program ends and becomes part of the DNP program. Post-baccalaureate students are now able to directly enroll in the DNP program. The College of Nursing DNP Program receives accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

2010: The College celebrates its 50th anniversary. The Interprofessional Education (IPE) curriculum is approved.

2011: The College of Nursing inducts its second class into its Hall of Fame. It also celebrates 10 years of the DNP Program.

2012: Dr. Patricia Howard is appointed interim dean.

2013: The College of Nursing partners with Norton HealthCare to offer the DNP Program to practicing BSN nurses – the first of its kind in the nation that served as a national model.

2014: Dr. Janie Heath is appointed as the fifth dean of the College of Nursing.

2017: The College of Nursing inducts its third class into its Hall of Fame. The first MedVet-BSN class graduates.

2018: The College of Nursing celebrates the 30th anniversary of the PhD Program.  As of December 2018, the College of Nursing has graduated 140 PhD alumni. It also opens the Beyond Birth Comprehensive Recovery Center, as well as its first NP faculty & College of Dentistry collaborative practice clinic at UK.