Purdue University School of Nursing: A Brief History

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa, rhoffa@purdue.edu

Purdue University’s School of Nursing started with a call to action and a drive to meet the challenge. In the 1950s, there was a dire need for nurses in Indiana, leading to a demand for more university nursing programs. Purdue fulfilled the need by developing a nursing program, which enrolled its first class of 30 students in the two-year associate degree program in fall 1963.

The nursing program was directed by Helen R. Johnson, a registered nurse with a strong administrative background, who led the development and growth of Purdue’s nursing program. In just one year, Johnson secured outside funding, hired faculty, arranged clinical sites, developed a curriculum and secured state approval for the new Department of Nursing. Initially housed in the Department of Applied and General Studies, Nursing introduced its first bachelor’s degree track in 1970 to offer greater career mobility to nurses with associate degrees or certificates.

The School of Nursing was established in 1979 by the Purdue Board of Trustees in recognition of the program’s strength as the number of nursing students continued to rise. The school was moved into a newly created administrative unit: the Schools of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Sciences, which was renamed in 2004 to the College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Sciences. In 2010, the School of Nursing became part of the newly created College of Health and Human Sciences.

The School of Nursing continues to experience rapid growth in its enrollment and program offerings. It now offers six graduate programs and four additional post-master’s certificate programs in addition to one of only two PhD in nursing programs in Indiana.

Today, Helen Johnson’s legacy remains strong in the School of Nursing, as it maintains its No. 1 rank in Indiana. From the Nursing Center for Family Health in Lyles-Porter Hall to the rural Indiana Family Health Clinics in Burlington, Delphi, Monon and Wolcott, the School of Nursing offers students rich opportunities to put the skills they learn into practice.