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Skidmore College Department of Nursing Records

Identifier: SCA-004

Scope and Contents

The records describe in detail the administrative functions of the nursing department chairman’s office, the teaching activities of the nursing faculty, and some aspects of student life in New York City from the 1950’s through 1985. There are relatively few records documenting the establishment of the nursing program in 1922 and the early years of the program. Few of the records covering the period from 1922 to the 1950’s survived the department’s move to New York City in 1942.

The vast majority of the material in the collection is typewritten paper records, dated between 1960 and 1985. The curriculum is documented in part by teaching films, and audio tapes. There are a few objects such as linen nursing caps, plaques, and framed citations. The paper records are correspondence, reports, contracts, class schedules, student papers, syllabi, course materials, programs for college events, college publications, faculty committee minutes, historical essays about the department, and transcribed interviews with faculty. The records are arranged in five series: 1. Audio/visual materials, 2. Chairman’s office files, 3. Department history files, 4. Oversize materials, and 5. The Agnes Gelinas collection. Folders are arranged chronologically and alphabetically by topics.

These records will be of interest to researchers of Skidmore College history, not only for the origin and development of the department of nursing, but because in the records of one department we see mirrored the activities of the entire college. Among the records of this department is correspondence between all the key administrative offices on the Saratoga campus. The offices of the president’s office, the registrar, admission, business office, the dean of student affairs and the dean of faculty were regular correspondents with the nursing department chair. Among the most interesting and best documented topics are the records describing in detail the content, style, and evaluation of courses taught by nursing faculty, the college’s relations with New York Hospitals for student residence and clinical experience, development for a New York Campus, student life and activities, the role of the board of trustees in developing the program in nursing, and the advising of students in the college’s University Without Walls (UWW) RN program.

One of the better documented topics in the collection is the role of the board in developing the program, as well as the debate over closure. The closure of the Department of Nursing in 1985 was one of the important turning points in the college’s history, signaling the changes in the college’s image, student body, and physical plant brought about by trustee actions which received mixed support from the alumni, students, and faculty.


  • Creation: 1919 - 1985
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1959 - 1985

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research by appointment. Files marked with an asterisk (*) are confidential. Access to these files is currently not permitted to the public. Please contact the Special Collections staff for more information.

Phone: (518) 580-5506


Biographical / Historical

Early years – Mary McClellan Hospital

In 1922, Skidmore College became a four-year liberal arts college and President Keyes announced a new Nursing Program. The concept of combining liberal arts studies with professional nursing training was a new direction in women’s education. Skidmore was among the first of the colleges to offer this kind of nursing program. In the early years of the program, students studied for five years to earn a B.S. degree from Skidmore and a diploma in nursing from McClellan Hospital in Cambridge, NY. During their clinical experience students lived at the hospital and exchanged work from room and board. Some of the clinical work was completed at Yale School of Nursing and Western Reserve University in Cleveland for public health nursing. The first nursing major completed the program in 1927. The nursing program consisted of four concentrations: pediatric nursing, psychiatric nursing, family health, and public health. The nursing program developed the area of public health nursing with funding from a Rockefeller grant in the 1930s. In 1944, it was the first school approved for public health nursing by the National Organization of Public Health Nurses. By 1941, the nursing faculty were concerned that the clinical facilities at McClellan Hospital were too small to allow for increased enrollments.

Move of Clinical Study to NYC

In 1942, the department moved the clinical experience to Post Graduate Hospital in New York City. The student residence and the administrative offices were located in Fahnstock Hall at 304 East 20th Street, NYC. In 1958, Post Graduate Hospital was purchased by NYU. For a short time students and the Nursing Program offices, were housed in the new NYU Medical Center complex. When the hospital would no longer provide space in the new medical center, and prior to purchasing a building, the program used, once again, the Fahnstock residence.

In 1964, Skidmore College changed the name of the Department from the Department of Nursing to the Irene McClellan Department of Nursing in honor of the trustee who had supported the program since it began in 1922. In 1965, Agnes Gelinas retired. Jean Campbell became the next chair. She helped the department achieve a long desired goal of a permanent location in New York. In 1969, Skidmore College leased, and later purchased a building on 325 East 38th Street for classrooms, administrative offices and student housing. After extensive renovations the building was dedicated in 1971. But despite these and other efforts to strengthen the program, enrollments were declining.

Task Force Report and Closure

As enrollments declined in the 1970s and in the face of increasing expenses the program came under review by the board of trustees. In 1981, a task force of administrators, students, and faculty was convened to examine the future of the nursing program. The task force report suggested aggressive actions to increase enrollments. The next year, 1982, the trustees decided to close the department. This decision came as a shock to some faculty, students, and alumnae. The debate over the decision was prolonged and covered both in the Skidmore newspaper as well as reported in national papers.

The Department Chairs

Dr. Clara M. Greenough, 1922 - 1928

Agnes Gelinas, 1928 - 1965

Jean Campbell, 1965 – 1973 (new building and revised curriculum)

Pat Evans, 1973 – 1979 (acting chair)

Joan E.Walsh, 1979 – 1983

Gloria Caliandro, 1983 – 1985

The Chair traveled between the two campuses for meetings. Other administrators made periodic visits to New York City. Nursing faculty met weekly at faculty meetings in NYC to discuss administrative and curricular matters. There were 13 faculty and faculty-student committees, some which met regularly and some on an on-call basis (Community Council, Committee on Promotion and Tenure, Tradition and Social Committee, Coordination Committee, Library and Audio/Visual Committee, and Curriculum Committee). The nursing faculty reported to the Chairperson, who reported to the Dean of the faculty. Budget issues, exclusive of faculty salaries, were reported to the Dean of the Faculty. Budget issues, exclusive of faculty salaries, were discussed between the Chairperson and the Vice President for Business Affairs.

Key Figures in the Program’s History

Support for the start of the nursing program came from Skidmore’s first president, President Charles Keyes, and from Irene Ward McClellan in Cambridge, NY. Her family built the hospital in Cambridge and provided housing for the Skidmore nursing students near the hospital. Mrs. McClellan later served in the Board of Trustees at Skidmore from 1934 to 1958. The supervisor in Cambridge was Myra Sutherland, RN and superintendent of the Hospital and Training School. President Moore and Gelinas worked closely together to develop the program. Under her chairmanship the program earned an excellent reputation for collegiate education for women entering the nursing profession. When the program moved to New York City, George E. Armstrong, director of NYU Medical Center, was enlisted to join the board of trustees. Josephine Case, acting president in 1964, oversaw fundraising for a Skidmore building in New York.

Biographical / Historical

Department of Nursing Chronology

Establishing the Program

A program supported by Skidmore College and the Mary McClellan Hospital in Cambridge, NY

1921-22, School of Arts changed its name to Skidmore College.

1922, first class of students were enrolled for four-year degree. The Nursing Program was established in affiliation with Mary McClelland Hospital in Cambridge, NY.

Dr. Clara Greenough, 1922-1928 (First chair at Mary McClellan Hospital) [Carn]

1925, Moore is Skidmore's second president. He remained president to 1957.

1927, first graduate: Edith Wills '27

1928, Agnes Gelinas was recruited by President Moore to serve as Dept. of Nursing Chair. (see Erickson paper, 1979)

1931-32, a new tuition charge for clinical work at the hospital, but room and board remain free for students. Program includes community service in final two months of the program at the East Harlem Nursing and Health Service in NYC at 354 E. 116th St.

1934-40, the Rockefeller Foundation financed a rural PHNurse experience for the students in the Nursing Program.

1936, Public Health Nursing In Rural Areas added to the curriculum.

193?, Irene Cam hired for specialty in Public Health Nursing.

1938 (May), BS and RN degrees with students specializing in tuberculosis, and Nursing and Urban and Rural Public Health

1942, Skidmore is the first baccalaureate nursing program to be accredited for Public Health Nursing by the National Organization for Public Health Nursing. (see Erickson)

Move to NYC

1942 (Feb 1), the Nursing Program moved to New York City. It was associated with New York Post-Graduate Medical School and Hospital, 'The Post-Graduate Hospital." Students lived in Margaret Fahnstock Hall. [Carn]

1942, a war program in nursing (3-yr. Program).

1943, during World War II the nursing program changed from five to four years.

1951, photo of a woman of African-American background in admission brochure, Oretta Davis '54.

1952, Erickson notes a trend in this period of integrating mental health concepts throughout the curriculum. 1953, the China Medial Board gave the nursing program $20,000.

1954, Doris Diller evaluation of cancer and nursing (faculty are recipients of grants from the National Cancer Institute)

195?, New York Post Graduate Medical School and Hospital ("Post-Graduate Hospital") was sold to New York University and the name changed to University Hospital. [Carn]

1956, Alumnae Quarterly announces new nursing program for 1957-58. [, March'56] 1957, Agnes Gelinas is on sabbatical and is a consultant in nursing education at the University of the Philippines.

1957 fall, Moore retires, succeeded by Wilson, Skidmore's third president up to the spring of 1964.

Program Is Housed in NYC Medical Center

1957 Nov, students are living in the "Hall of Residence" of the New York University Medical Center at 550 First Ave. (at East 30th Street.) [Skidmore News 11114/1957, Skidmore Alumnae Quarterly Mar, 1957]

1958, Mrs. McClellan retires form the Board of Trustees.

1958, George Armstrong (director of NYU Medical Center at the time) became member of Skidmore College Board of Trustees. He was on the Board for eleven years and was a strong supporter of the Nursing Program.

1960 spring, the old P.G. Hospital moved into a new building as "University Hospital" with space in the building for the nursing program.

1961, fundraising for a new building to be completed in 1967 at cost of $2,900,000.

1963, Agnes Gelinas is honored by the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital.

1964 April, President Wilson dies. Josephine Case is Acting President for one year.

1964 May, the Nursing Department is named the Irene Ward McClelland Department of Nursing.

1965, Agnes Gelinas retired. Jean Campbell takes over as chairman of the Department of Nursing.

1965, a trustee committee, headed by Mrs. Everett Case, is formed to raise funds for the Nurses' Education and Residence Building in NYC. [News Release from Skidmore, April, 1965]

1965 fall, Joseph Palamountain is the new president.

1965, Nursing Department sends out a questionnaire to alumnae.

1960's, the hospital no longer would provide office and student residential space in the hospital and offered the program the use of the Margaret Fahnstock building. [Carn] 1967 (Sept 6), Irene Ward McClelland died.

1966, Jean Campbell replaced Agnes Gelinas as Chairperson of the Nursing Department.

1967, Skidmore Nursing Newsletter begun.

1968, Nursing Newsletter debates strike.

1968 May, newsletter announces Gloria Caliandro is project director of a five-year curriculum improvement project supported by a grant from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The project goals are to vitalize and improve instruction through the use of multiple audio-visual media and develop effective ways to evaluate curriculum. [VF.folderl]

1968 Dec, the portrait of Agnes Gelinas by Everett Raymond Kinstler is presented. [VF.folder 2]

1969, S.C. leased 325 E. 38th St. under a ten year lease, later purchased the property with HUD financing.

Move to 38th St.

1970, 38th St. building opened after renovations.

1971 May, dedication of Skidmore's new building at 325 East 38th St. in NYC. [VF.folder2] Held under a ten year lease.

1971, UWW RN Program (for nurses who wanted a baccalaureate degree) started. [box23file 14:Ltr.8/4/77Gelber-E.N.Muma]

1971, UWW is established at Skidmore.

1972 (Nov 29), Fiftieth Anniversary celebration of the founding of the College and the Department of Nursing.

1979, last UWW RN student admitted. [box23]

Task Force Review of Nursing Program

1981 (Feb 6), Honors Society of Nursing inducts 42 charter members.

1981 (April 3), Honors Society of Nursing established (Sigma Theta Tau).

1981, open house in the Skidmore College Department of Nursing at the Skidmore New York City Campus, 325 East 38th Street, between First and Second Avenues.

1981, first Agnes Gelinas Distinguished Alumni Award.

1981, faculty response to task force report.

1982 (Feb 13), closure voted and approved by Board. [VF.folder 3] 1982 (Feb 18), student rally on Saratoga campus. [VF.folder 3]

1982 (Feb 26), Palamountain letter to parents and alumni.

1982 (Mar 5), faculty vote 75 to 9 against Trustee decision to close.

1982 (Mar 18), Special Board meeting to cease admissions to Program of Nursing.

1984, NYC building sold to government of Indonesia.

1985, last nursing students graduate.


35 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Custodial History

As a result of earlier attempts to organize the materials in this collection, papers have been added to some files, and a portion of the collection was re-arranged topically, thereby losing original order. A large part of the collection does not reflect the primary use of the records. In contrast, the records in the Chairman’s office files series, are intact files which can be attributed to individuals who created and maintained them. These records appear to have been saved by several chairpersons in succession. The records relating to the personal and professional activities of Agnes Gelinas are in a separate series under her name.

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Repository Details

Part of the Scribner Library Archives, Skidmore College Repository