The Nursing Associates at 50

 a 1959 news clipping of Mary Clark Rockefeller.

Above: a 1959 news clipping of Mary Clark Rockefeller.

Advocates lend a personal touch to students

Senior Kristen Earley received the Associates’ Ellen Bowden scholarship in 2009.

Senior Kristen Earley
received the Associates’ Ellen Bowden scholarship in 2009.

Longtime members Nell Woodruff Hodgson Watt (left) and Virginia Proctor.

Longtime members Nell Woodruff Hodgson Watt (left) and Virginia Proctor.

The late Mary Clark Rockefeller knew a thing or two about nursing. Like her mother before her, the former first lady of New York lobbied on behalf of nursing education. Through her advocacy, she raised public awareness and support to ensure the future of the profession.

Her efforts captured the attention of Emory’s Boisfeuillet Jones and School of Nursing Dean Ada Fort, who invited Rockefeller to campus in April 1959. Over the course of two days, Rockefeller met with nursing administrators and faculty, Emory leaders, the spouses of Emory faculty and trustees, and members of United Methodist Women and other women’s groups. She also granted interviews to local media.

Her visit sparked a legacy. A month later, 12 volunteers emerged to form what is known today as the Nursing Associates. The core group included Nell Hodgson Woodruff, the school’s namesake; her niece, Nell Woodruff Hodgson Watt (“Little Nell”), who remains a member today; and Ellen Bowden, the group’s first president.

During the Associates’ formative years, members fanned out to promote the school, help recruit students, and support them with scholarships. They also fought to preserve government funding for nursing education. In 1973, the Associates helped raise more than $30,000 for scholarships after federal funds to the nursing school were cut. When the possibility of federal reductions loomed again in 1979, the Associates pushed for passage of the Nurse Training Act to protect nursing scholarships and loans. President Carter signed the act into law later that year.

Now a half-century old, the Associates continue their advocacy on behalf of nursing students. Guided by current president Jo Ann Bookout and other board members, the group maintains support for several scholarships, including the Nursing Associates Scholarship and the Ellen Bowden Endowed Scholarship for Nursing, created after Bowden’s death in 1986. Currently, 25 students hold scholarships for 2009-2010.

Come May, Bookout will fulfill another Associates tradition by presenting the Silver Bowl Award to an outstanding master’s degree student at graduation. Twice a year, members practice the art of APT, short for Associates Personal Touch, by handing out treats to students on Halloween and Valentine’s Day. It’s their way of connecting with the school in which Mary Clark Rockefeller saw so much potential 50 years ago.—Pam Auchmutey

To support Nursing Associates scholarships, contact the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at 404-727-6917 or

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winter 2010