Alumni and Friends Celebrate Nursing Centennial


ATLANTA – More than 600 alumni and friends of Georgia Baptist College of Nursing of Mercer University came together to celebrate 100 years of nursing education excellence. The weekend event included the dedication of the College of Nursing building, the establishment of the College’s Hall of Honor and the induction of its first honorees, the Centennial Gala and a worship service.

Gorgia’s oldest nursing education program, Georgia Baptist College of Nursing was founded as the Tabernacle Infirmary and Training School for Nurses in 1902 by Dr. Len G. Broughton, a Baptist minister and physician. The inaugural class had four graduates.

“Over the past 100 years, Georgia Baptist College of Nursing alumni have been instrumental in providing health care throughout the state and nation,” said Dean Susan S. Gunby. “The first four students graduated from Baptist Tabernacle Infirmary School for Nurses in 1904, and now more than 5,900 have followed in their footsteps.”

A highlight of the weekend was the dedication of the new, 60,000-square foot, three-story College of Nursing Building, located on Mercer’s Atlanta campus.

“This facility is the home of a College with a proud past and a bright future,” said Mercer President R. Kirby Godsey. ” It is a place where cutting-edge medical technology and timeless values of compassion and care are blended to produce the best nursing professionals in this state, and perhaps the country. We have anticipated this day for several years because it represents a formal recognition of the union of the College of Nursing with Mercer University.”

Completed in December 2001 and occupied in January, the new College of Nursing offers the latest equipment in nursing education. In addition to classrooms, study areas, meeting rooms and laboratories, the building houses two state-of-the-art clinical laboratories with eight patient beds in each. Alumni who toured the facility marveled at the advancements in nursing education since their time at Georgia Baptist.

“It’s beautiful,” said Laura VanderGalien Pater of Kennesaw, a member of the class of 1978 and the mother of current Georgia Baptist nursing student Mary Pater. “[The clinical labs are] very realistic. I wish I could come back to school with my daughter.”

Robert F. Hatcher, chairman of Mercer’s Board of Trustees, was also on hand to mark the momentous occasion. “When we voted to make Georgia Baptist College of Nursing part of Mercer University, this is the scene we had in mind – a vision of state-of-the-art technology packaged in a beautiful facility with a heart and character that would appeal to nursing students,” said Hatcher, Georgia chairman of BB&T bank and 2002 president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. “We are exceedingly proud of the College of Nursing and as we celebrate this centennial milestone, we anticipate another 100 years of growth and progress together.”

In its centennial year, the College is addressing the shortage of nursing faculty and acute/critical care nurses with the initiation of its master of science in nursing degree program. Fall 2002 was the inaugural semester for graduate students enrolled in these two vitally important areas of concentration. Georgia Baptist College of Nursing also offers the bachelor of science in nursing degree and an RN-BSN advanced track.

Dr. Susan Sweat Gunby, dean of the Georgia Baptist College of Nursing of Mercer University, welcomes alumni and friends to the dedication of the new nursing building. On her right is the signed proclamation from Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes honoring the College for reaching the centennial milestone.

Dr. Susan Sweat Gunby, center, dean of the Georgia Baptist College of Nursing of Mercer University, poses with nursing students, from left, Lelia Plaxco, Amanda Goodwin, Dawn Pass Cowart and Kimberly New during the centennial weekend celebration. The students dressed in replica nursing uniforms from the first four graduates of what was then called the Tabernacle Infirmary and School of Nursing in 1904.

Sandra Denny Clements of Tucker, left, receives the Distinguished Alumna Award from Dean Susan Sweat Gunby during the alumni meeting on Saturday. Clements, a member of the class of 1968, is a clinical nurse specialist at Emory Epilepsy Center and currently serves as president of the Georgia Baptist College of Nursing Alumni Association.

Kelli P. Shugart, left, an instructor with Georgia Baptist College of Nursing of Mercer University, demonstrates to alumni the modern features of an interactive mannequin in one of the new, eight-bed clinical skills labs.

– 30 –