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Statue dedication marks association’s $1 million milestone in support of nurse education

Posted on May. 11, 2018 ( comments)
1946 Tacoma General Hospital School of Nursing graduate Florence "SeeSee" Rigney, RN, now America's oldest working nurse, stands with the new statue at the dedication ceremony.

The Tacoma General School of Nursing Alumnae Association commemorated a historic achievement May 11 with the dedication of a bronze statue at Tacoma General Hospital, marking 2018 as the year it reached a total of $1 million in educational scholarships and grants to nurses.

The fund was established in 1997 by school of nursing alumnae and friends to support nursing education. This year, the fund is renewing that original promise of supporting nursing education for future generations of nurses, working with the MultiCare Health Foundation to pursue a campaign goal of $5 million.

“The role of nurses everywhere has changed a great deal,” says 1979 Tacoma General School of Nursing graduate Christi McCarren, RN, who is now MultiCare’s Senior Vice President of Retail Health and Community-Based Care. “It is important that we invest in our nurses because we are evolving as a profession. The education endowment is a promise to generations to come who need access to nursing education and knowledge, and this is what remains at the heart of the legacy of the graduates of the school.”

The statue, created in the image of a 1940-1960s student nurse in uniform, is located in the Baker Center Plaza looking toward Jackson Hall, where many nurses lived while pursuing their education. It was created by local artist John Jewell, a retired teacher, principal, special services director and a college instructor. After 30 years in education he returned to the University of Puget Sound to study art.  His sculptural themes focus on history, communication and sharing, family and community.

The school’s origins trace back to 1895, when the Fannie C. Paddock School of Nursing opened its doors as the first school of nursing in Washington state with a class of six nurses. By the time the school closed in 1980, more than 2,200 nurses had graduated.

Today, there are more than 700 living graduates and the alumni association remains active as they continue to support the next generation of MultiCare nurses. Graduates have gone on to become leaders in their profession and continue to serve in various roles within MultiCare today.

Notable graduates of the school include:

• SeeSee Rigney, class of 1946 and the oldest working nurse in the country.

• Helen Engle, class of 1947. Engle received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Audubon Society in 2013 and was the founder of several conservation organizations in Washington.

• Shirley Murphy, class of 1960, was the first nurse executive at Tacoma General Hospital. Her late husband, Thomas O. Murphy, was a pioneer in cardiovascular surgery and made Tacoma General the first hospital in the state to do heart surgery on bypass.

• Gretchen Schodde, MN, ARNP, class of 1966. Schodde received the Washington State Medal of Merit, the state’s highest honor bestowed by the Governor. She is currently the only nurse to have received this honor. She is also the founder and Executive Director, Emerita of Harmony Hill Retreat Center. In 1973, she became one of the first two nurse practitioners in the state and went on to help pioneer the University of Washington’s first nurse practitioner program.

• Janet Runbeck, class of 1976, is a recipient of the UW Tacoma Distinguished Alumni Award and was honored as South Sound Magazine’s 2016 Citizen of the Year for her work in the community to raise awareness about human trafficking.

• Sandi Squires, class of 1978, serves as a clinical recruiter, MultiCare Human Potential.

For more information about the Tacoma General Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association or to contribute to the Educational Endowment Fund, contact the MultiCare Health Foundation at 253-403-1264.

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