Black and white photo of nurses in uniforms in church pew circa 1957

A Brief History of the School of Nursing

Compassion is at the heart of the University's mission, and it has been a critical part of our nursing curriculum from the beginning. We have an abiding philosophy to prepare nurses that have compassion for the people they serve. This philosophy makes a Duquesne nursing education unique. As we celebrate our first 80 years, School of Nursing alumni, students, faculty and staff can look back with satisfaction and deserved pride on our story. That story shows that Duquesne nurses have been, and will be, leaders at every level and in every facet of the profession of nursing.

In the Beginning

In the 1920s, the Catholic Hospital Association of Pittsburgh believed that additional education beyond the hospital-based diploma programs was needed and envisioned creating a cadre of qualified nurse educators and administrators. Due to the tenacity of these early leaders, that dream was realized in 1935 when a Department of Nursing Education was established at Duquesne in the College of Liberal Arts and Letters. The first director of that department was Mary Tobin, a veteran of the United States Public Health Nursing Service as well as a former instructor, director and commandant of the Army School of Nursing and an administrator of the Yale University School of Nursing. Just two years later, on March 15, 1937, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recognized Duquesne's Bachelor of Science in Nursing Education (BSNE) degree, making ours the first nursing baccalaureate program in the state.

Then, in 1939, we obtained our first—but by no means last—national accreditation. Today, the School of Nursing claims national honors, including achieving the coveted "Center of Excellence" credential, which is granted by the National League for Nursing, four times.

From its inception, the School of Nursing has had a pioneering spirit. The first Duquesne nurses took courses in public health, a field that Dean Tobin termed "the new concept of nursing." A focus on public health has continued to shape the School's aspirations, and it has become an important component of the knowledge that nursing graduates gain at Duquesne.

Major Changes

By the mid-1980s, the School launched its Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program, and in 1994, we began a PhD program. Three years later, that doctoral program became the nation's first online nursing doctorate, a change that put a PhD in Nursing within reach of nurses who have work or family commitments that would otherwise prevent the pursuit of advanced degrees. This online success prompted the School to shift its MSN program to a completely online program and to make available a wider selection of online graduate nursing programs, including a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. Thus the pioneering spirit of the founders has lived on through our innovative approaches to providing access to graduate nursing education to men and women irrespective of schedules, family commitments or location.

The dynamic evolution of technology has been embraced by the faculty as a critical component of our educational endeavors. Our Nursing Learning and Simulation Center contains computerized mannequins so sophisticated that they feign a range of diseases and conditions replete with groans and verbal complaints. This development enables students to learn in a low-risk environment, where digitally delivered feedback fosters learning, as well as teaching, and enables students to be active participants in the evaluation of their advancement.

The School of Nursing has always endeavored to anticipate needs and realign the nursing curriculum to meet them. Today, for example, both the undergraduate and graduate curriculums are imbued with ideas derived from the Synergy Model for Patient Care created by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, an innovative patient- and family-centered approach to determining a nurse's characteristics and competencies.

Moreover, in 2003 a community-based curriculum was implemented, which sensitized our students to think about patient care needs beyond institutional walls and fostered the appreciation of transcultural lifestyles. In 2013, the BSN program was revised based on recommendations emanating from two important national reports, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health (Institute of Medicine, 2011), and Educating Nurses: A Call for Radical Transformation (Benner, Sutphen, Leonard, & Day, 2010).

The School of Nursing prepares students to excel in the rapidly changing profession of nursing. Students are inspired to develop personal and ethical values that are essential for leadership in today's health care arena. We place a strong emphasis on equality in health care, which drives our innovative programs with leading-edge learning. Service to the poor and underserved, as well as the exercise of leadership, in the struggle for social justice and equity in health care have come to characterize the School of Nursing's identity.

  • 1935 - Founded as a unit in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • 1937 - Established as a separate school and approved by the State Board of Education of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • 1937 - First in Pennsylvania to offer a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree for high school graduates
  • 1964 - Implemented revised nursing program for admission of both basic and registered nurse students leading to the degree of Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • 1982 - Instituted RN-BSN program, designed to meet the educational and professional needs of the registered nurse
  • 1986 - Graduate Nursing Program was opened to offer the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
    Today, the areas of specialization offered are: Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse PractitionerAdult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Pracitioner; Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner; Executive Nurse Leadership and Health Care Management; Forensic Nursing; and Nursing Education
  • 1991 - Established Second Degree BSN program for students who hold a baccalaureate degree in a discipline other than nursing
  • 1994 - Graduate Nursing Program expanded to include study for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing
  • 1997 - Created first online PhD in Nursing program in the country
  • 2004 - School of Nursing moves to new space in Fisher Hall
  • 2008 - Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program instituted. This online practice focused doctorate is designed to enable nurses to contribute to the transformations needed in health care in creative and innovative ways.
  • 2008 - Designated as a Center of Excellence: Outstanding Achievement in Student Learning and Professional Development by the National League for Nursing
  • 2009 - Awarded the Jacques Laval Endowed Chair in Justice for Vulnerable Populations
  • 2010 - Awarded the Noble J. Dick Endowed Chair in Community Outreach
  • 2011 - Re-designated as a Center of Excellence: Outstanding Achievement in Student Learning and Professional Development by the National League for Nursing
  • 2012 - School of Nursing celebrates its 75th Anniversary
  • 2014 - Revised online RN-BSN program
  • 2014 - Biomedical Engineering and Nursing program (BME/BSN) was initiated
  • 2015 - Re-designated as NLN Center of Excellence: Outstanding Achievement in Student Learning and Professional Development by the National League for Nursing
  • 2017 - PhD in Nursing Ethics began
  • 2018 - Endorsed by the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC)
  • 2020 - Offered six additional graduate programs. MSN specializations included Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Pracitioner and Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Executive Nurse Leadership and Health Care Management specialization was made available as an MSN, PMC, as well as DNP (for post-bachelor or post-master entry)
  • 2020 - Re-designated as NLN Center of Excellence: Outstanding Achievement in Student Learning and Professional Development by the National League for Nursing

To date, more than 8,000 students have graduated from Duquesne's School of Nursing.


Mary Tobin

Mary Tobin, MA

Ruth Johnson

Ruth Johnson, PhD

Regina Fusan

Regina Tusan, MEd

Rosemarie Parse

Rosemarie Parse, PhD

Carol Smith

Carol Smith, PhD

Ruth Maskiewicz

Ruth Maskiewicz, PhD

Mary de Chesnay

Mary de Chesnay, DSN

Eileen Zungolo

Eileen Zungolo, EdD

Dr. Mary Ellen Smith Glasgow

Mary Ellen Glasgow, PhD
2012 -