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The Catalyst

College of Nursing reopening exceeds expectations

By Mikie Hayes
Public Relation

Ann Edwards, center, takes the lead in cutting the ceremonial ribbon in celebration of the College of Nursing’s renovation.  photos by Anne Thompson, Digital Imaging

As MUSC dignitaries cut the bright red ribbon at the top of the grand double stairways leading to the newly renovated College of Nursing, more than 100 people watched, waiting to see the long-awaited improvements.

The pride was evident in those involved in the ceremony: Gail Stuart, Ph.D., R.N., dean of the College of Nursing; Chairman of the MUSC board of trustees, Don Johnson, M.D.; MUSC President David Cole, M.D., FACS; Ann Edwards, R.N., former first lady; Kay Chitty, Ed.D., R.N., co–chairwoman of the college’s development committee; and Mark Sothmann, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs.
On Dec. 11, nearly two years to the day from the time CON faculty and staff packed their files and computers and moved to other parts of MUSC’s campus, they were seeing their new home for the first time.

It didn’t take the supportive crowd long to see the improvements. Even at first glance it was clear the Mary Watcher Swain Foyer, Kay and Charles Chitty Drawing Room and Class of 1980 Archives Room offered a great deal to take in: glistening chandeliers, a stately portrait of a beloved friend of the college, a touching painting that now serves as a legacy of a famed local artist, and a series of five bronze sculptures, featuring nurses throughout the years all captured the attention of the crowd.

Greenville artist Charlie Pate, left, unveils his sculptures to the crowd at the Dec. 11 ceremony.

As the official program started, Stuart welcomed Cole, her faculty, staff, and guests, explaining that the college was “a work in progress” with a few minor details still needing to be addressed during the following weeks. However, “Today,” she said, “we are celebrating our return.”  

Cole joined the dean and praised the faculty and staff for their “dedication, drive and devotion that echoes throughout the hallways of the college” and heartily congratulated the dean whom he credited for the college’s success.

He told guests that the two-year process was much more than a mere renovation, referring to the project as a transformation befitting what the faculty at the college, under the leadership of their dean, had accomplished in the past decade.

“They have taken a school of nursing that was comfortable, quiet and demure and transformed it into a true nursing powerhouse,” Cole said. “Under Dean Stuart’s leadership, comfortable has become innovative; quiet has become nationally recognized for high quality teaching and cutting edge research; and demure has become daring, dynamic and really a crown jewel for MUSC.”

Referring to the college as a true incubator for changing what’s possible at MUSC, Cole specifically mentioned the fact that the College of Nursing was ranked second in the nation in graduate online programs by U.S. News and World Report and 14th in the country in National Institutes of Health funding.

“At the end of the day, I think we all know that nurses are the lifelines of patients and their families. They are both the hub of the wheel of health care and the safety net for those who are entrusted to our care,” he said.

Advocate and Angel
As the celebration continued, it became clear that the shining star of the day’s events was Ann Edwards, who was credited with being the drive behind the renovation project.  Stuart said “I must share with you that one person is directly responsible for actualizing this renovation – Mrs. Ann Darlington Edwards.”  

She continued, “You see, Ann and I shared the vision for this renovation, but she was the powerful force who helped move mountains to make it happen.”

Stuart explained that for years, whenever Mrs. Edwards attended a university function, advocating for the renovation was her sole mission.  

“I can tell you that at cocktail parties, when the board of trustees saw Ann approaching, they knew what topic she would be talking about first - how the College of Nursing desperately needed to be renovated. Ann’s elegant grace, political savvy and laser-sharp focus on making this happen is why we are all here, and why I often speak of Ann as the ‘angel of this college.’”  

A nurse herself, Mrs. Edwards graduated from the Columbia Hospital School of Nursing and practiced before becoming first lady of South Carolina and subsequently, MUSC. In 1999, the Ann Darlington Edwards Endowed Chair of Nursing was established in her honor and was the first endowed chair outside of medicine at MUSC. At that time, it was also the first and only research endowed chair of nursing in South Carolina.

The spotlight on Mrs. Edwards continued as her portrait was unveiled with the promise that it will remain the only one that graces the walls of the college’s drawing room.

Hallways on the second floor are lined with photographs enlarged to various sizes and featuring nursing students and faculty.

Where the past meets the future
Being that the nursing program was established in 1883, and the current five–story building had been in use since 1956 when it combined education, recreation and dormitory space, it was important to the dean that the new building reflect both the history as well as what’s ahead: “melding the accomplishments of the past as well as the vision for the future.”


She accomplished that goal as was evidenced by cabinets filled with nursing memorabilia and dozens of photographs that lined the walls of the second floor. These four-foot tall commemorations of the important roles nurses play in health care serve as a continual reminder of the college’s treasured past.

The vision for the future played out in high-tech classrooms, research areas and “converge spaces” that were designed to stimulate ideas and reflect on important outcomes. The renovated building features an entirely new infrastructure, increased faculty and staff work areas and upgraded educational technology. A new simulation lab allows the college to replicate real-life circumstances in a safe and high-fidelity environment.

During tours, the simulation lab clearly captured the attention of guests. Renée Black, R.N., co-chair of the college’s development committee shared her excitement. “Having been a practicing nurse and associate professor of nursing for some time before I entered the business of health care, I was so pleased to attend the grand opening and see the magnificent learning center. Viewing the extraordinary sculptures that encompass 131 years of nursing at MUSC was wonderful; it enhanced the lovely collection of photographs of our nursing students since the beginning of our program. I was taken aback by John Doyle’s magnificent painting, “Compassion.” The nurse depicted in the oil painting IS the nurse treating every patient at MUSC today. His work is so thoughtful; he truly captured a most genuine moment in time. Visiting the simulation lab took my breath away. The labs offer our nursing students, at every level, the best and latest equipment and technology available for continued dynamic learning and clinical practice experience before caring for any patient, thus providing the best in care.”  

New classrooms and meeting spaces were added and 12 high-tech conference rooms, located throughout the building, are equipped with large video monitors to promote student interaction and collaboration. There are two research suites and an exercise area with two treadmill desks for faculty and students to use.

The new floor plan was designed to accommodate an increase in student enrollment as well as faculty and staff growth.

It was much like Christmas morning for faculty members touring the building. Teresa J. Kelechi, Ph.D., RN, a professor and the David and Margaret Clare Endowed Chair, said, “I walked into the building with much anticipation of a high-tech, ultra-modern building.  Much to my surprise, I was greeted by an entrance way that is extremely elegant, and captures the charm and grace of the old ambiance of earlier years. 
Another ‘wow’ factor is the layout and features of the offices and common spaces that provide exquisite lighting and comfort and encourage a hospitable environment. The dean is to be commended for her vision and for sharing her design talents with our very excited faculty.”

On a growth trajectory
The college has trained nurses for 131 years and has grown steadily during that time. In 1976, the college began to offer a master of science in nursing program and launched a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing in 2001.

Today, the college boasts more than 75 online classes which is quite an accomplishment considering there were none offered in 2002. Since that year, enrollment has grown by 98 percent.  

Marcelline Lankford, a May 2015 BSN candidate and Student Government Association representative, said, “I am excited and feel privileged to be among the first students in the College of Nursing to be able to utilize and benefit from the renovations that took place over the past couple years. The hard work and attention to detail is evident in the displays that line the hallways and the state-of-the-art classrooms that we will be using in the spring. This building will be the home of current and future nurses who strive to shape and better health care for future generations, right in the heart of the MUSC campus. I am looking forward to the spring semester in which my peers and I can fully enjoy and appreciate all that the new building has to offer.”

Funding the renovation
The support of the $10 million renovation came from a combination of sources including the state, university, and private philanthropy, according to Lynn Shull, CPA, MHA, and the college’s assistant dean for finance. Specific state-deferred maintenance funds allowed for much needed work to plumbing, electrical and structural issues. State funds also allowed the university to renovate and preserve the existing College of Nursing building rather than build a new structure from the ground up.

The impetus to take on such a massive project boiled down to the reality that the 1956 building was simply an inefficient space. Shull said very little in that time, other than turning dorm rooms into offices, had been done to change the feel of the space, and they had outgrown it. “Our programs are growing and we wanted to be able to accommodate that growth and even continue to grow. We either had to have a new building or renovate the existing space to make it more efficient. The building was gutted down to the walls, but we were able to keep the same footprint and gained 76 work spaces.”

Shull, who Stuart credits with making the project happen in a smooth manner, said, “This renovation allows the people who work here, as well as students and alumni, to feel a renewed pride in the college. I’m personally excited about having us all the under the same roof again; being back together in a place that is fresh, bright and clean as well as state-of-the-art. As interest in our program continues to grow, not to mention the demand for our graduates, we had to keep up with that demand with physical space.”

The vital role of philanthropy

Marcia Falk, Ann Edwards and Dr. Gail Stuart in front of John Carroll Doyle’s painting, “Compassion.”

Alumni and friends of the college were generous in their support of the renovation project, which resulted in the naming of the foyer, archives room, and drawing room, as well as the Dr. and Mrs. James B. Edwards and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation Faculty Conference Room and James R. Izant Classroom.

Another donation funded a commissioned painting by renowned local artist, John Carroll Doyle, who passed away in November before seeing his work formally unveiled. His massive painting, which is 48 inches high by 60 inches wide, titled “Compassion,” depicts a nurse bedside while parents, wracked with worry, watch her lovingly tend to their sick child.

“Compassion” was donated by the Falk–Griffin Foundation. Marcia Falk served on what was formerly called the dean’s advisory board and was a friend of the artist. Doyle was particularly excited to be asked to do this piece and spent many hours researching old photographs and images of nurses. His desire, according to Stuart, was to capture the healing and comforting presence that nurses bring to the world of a family.

Many other items were donated and enhance the overall ambience of the college. A few naming opportunities still exist, including conference room suites, the simulation laboratory, lecture halls, and the sculpture series that greets those who enter the college using the main entrance. “Profiles of Caring,” sculpted by Charlie Pate of the Pate Gallery in Greenville, is composed of five individual pieces which depict the history of nursing and commemorate the renovation of the college.

The dean has a great deal to be excited about. “The renovated College of Nursing building represents a unique, respectful and dynamic blend of our rich legacy as one of the oldest schools of nursing in the country, and our brilliant future as we pave the way in nursing innovation, creativity and quality outcomes. Here at our college we clearly are ‘taking nursing higher.’"

“Please join me in raising a glass to toast the College of Nursing’s past,” Stuart said as guests lifted flutes of champagne and sparkling cider, “and the people here today who will propel us into a glorious future. To all of us — cheers!”

January 6, 2015



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