Growing Nurse Leaders

kay chitty

Charles and Kay Chitty have made a gift to help cover travel costs to conferences for nursing students, enabling them to present their research and grow as nursing leaders.

Alumna's gift enables students to present 
their research at conferences

Seeking direction as a sophomore with an undeclared major, Kay Kittrell Chitty 65N 68MN took inspiration from an iconic figure at Emory and found a lifelong calling. Acting on the recommendation of her adviser, Chitty met with Dean Ada Fort at the School of Nursing to explore the possibility of becoming 
a nurse.

"Dean Fort spent about an hour with me, and by the end of that time she had recruited me for the incoming nursing class. She was so persuasive, she made me excited to be a part of the class," says Chitty. Determined to enroll for fall semester, she spent the summer in Atlanta taking the organic and inorganic chemistry classes she needed as prerequisites. 

Chitty graduated from the School of Nursing in 1965 with a bachelor's degree in nursing, then returned for graduate school, earning a master's degree in psychiatric nursing in 1968. Her experiences at Emory led to a successful career as a nursing educator. Now she and her husband Charles have made a $100,000 gift to endow the Kay Kittrell Chitty Scholars Sharing Knowledge Award. The gift will help cover travel costs to conferences for nursing students, enabling them to present their research. 

"I received the best education I could possibly have gotten at Emory, but in those days there was very little thought about encouraging bachelor's or master's degree students to make presentations at conferences," Chitty says. "We were not there yet as a profession. In the past 45 years, evidence-based nursing has become more and more important. If we see ourselves as preparing leaders for the nursing profession, students should have the opportunity to show that leadership before they finish their degrees. They need to have the experience of peer review, presenting their research, answering questions, and defending their science."

A nurse and nursing educator for more than 40 years, Chitty directed the School of Nursing at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) from 1988 to 1993. Upon her retirement, Memorial Hospital established the Kay Kittrell Chitty Professorship in Nursing at UTC to honor her service as hospital board chair. Chitty is co‐author of the bestselling textbook, Professional Nursing: Concepts and Challenges, now in its sixth edition. She currently serves on several health care-related and nonprofit boards in the Charleston, South Carolina, area. 

Chitty is proud to call the nursing school her alma mater and wants her gift to help future generations of Emory nurses. 

"We wanted to make sure that our gift actually meets a need," says Chitty, who received the school's Distinguished Nursing Achievement Award in 2010. "In the future, if this is not a priority, there is flexibility built into the agreement allowing the school to use this gift for a more pressing need."—Maria Lameiras

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Cover of Emory Nursing Magazine