50 years of nursing education

Long before the school of nursing was established in the 1960s, the roots of the program began to take shape under the William R. Davies administration of the 1940s. Before the creation of the nursing program at what was thenthe Wisconsin State College at Eau Claire, local education for prospective nurses took place at Luther Hospital.  In 1953, a new opportunity was offered to these nursing students: For the first time, college courses — such as microbiology and anatomy — designed specifically for nurses were offered at WSC-EC.  The following year, a proper program for nursing students began to take shape, when the first year of their education would take place solely at the college.  This arrangement would last for over a decade.

In 1964, changes were taking place at the college.  Along with an official change of name — to Wisconsin State University at Eau Claire — and the new modernistic figure of the L. E. Phillips Science Hall spanning Little Niagara Creek, the Board of Regents also gave their seal of approval for a School of Nursing at WSU-EC in November of that year.  Marguerite Coffman, who had helped conduct an investigation into the viability of a potential nursing school, became its first dean, and its first location was a space in Schofield Hall that had previously been occupied by the biology department.  Twenty-three sophomores were admitted to the School of Nursing the following fall.  Seventeen of those students were awarded the program’s first baccalaureate degrees in 1968, the same year that construction began on the new nursing building nestled against the backdrop of Putnam Park.  By the time the facility was dedicated in 1970, enrollment had skyrocketed to more than 200 students, with 27 faculty members.

The College of Nursing and Health Sciences has become one of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s defining characteristics, featuring state-of-the-art facilities, educational opportunities with local health care providers, and a doctor of nursing practice degree program.  As the only public university in this region to offer a baccalaureate degree in nursing, it is home to more than 800 undergraduate and graduate students. 

See a collection of historical images below. Scroll arrows on right and left.