Since its first class graduated in 1964, the University of Kentucky College of Nursing has modeled innovation and excellence in nursing education. The program has prepared thousands of nurses, men and women who have helped lead our county’s health care system as caregivers, executive leaders, effective teachers, trail-blazing researchers, policymakers and community transformers.

The following timeline chronicles the development of the UK College of Nursing:

1956: Kentucky legislators approve building a new medical center on the University of Kentucky campus.

1957: The creation of a new hospital at a time when physicians are hard to come by is worsened with the realization that nurses, too, are in short supply. In Kentucky, only 13 schools offer hospital diploma programs. Combined, these programs graduate 297 nurses in 1957. Because of this drought, Dr. William R. Willard, founding dean of the Albert B. Chandler Medical Center and dean of the UK College of Medicine, proposes the idea of a College of Nursing. Dr. Willard’s college would offer two programs: one for high school graduates and one for registered nurses. 

1958: With the idea of the College of Nursing coming to fruition, Dr. Willard finds a dean in 35-year-old Dr. Marcia Allene Dake, a doctorate of education student at Columbia University’s Teachers College. She becomes the youngest nursing school dean in the nation.

1959: With the appointment of Dr. Dake in 1958 comes the need to hire more faculty members. Three more women, all of whom have master's degrees in nursing, are appointed within the next year.

1960: In May of 1960, the College of Nursing enrolls the 35 women who will come to make up the first class. Of these women, five are registered nurses, while the remaining 30 are just beginning their education. These women encounter many of the same rules UK students in the College of Nursing do today: white shoes, no nail polish and no flashy jewelry.

1962: During the next two years, College of Nursing enrollment nearly doubles from 40 in 1960 to 74 in 1962.To address the program's growth, Dr. Dake teams up with Henderson Community College to create an associate degree program. Once the program at Henderson is successfully established, programs are opened at community colleges in Lexington. They then spread to Covington and Elizabethtown. In 1967, four years after the first partnership, more than 30 percent of new nurses in Kentucky are graduating from one of the associate degree programs.

1964: The College of Nursing graduates its first class. As an established part of the University of Kentucky Medical Center, the college is now offering not only an undergraduate program, but also a continuing education program and the successful associate degree programs.

1965: The College of Nursing is granted full accreditation from the National League for Nursing (NLN). With the expanding reach of the College of Nursing and the success of additional associate degree programs, Dr. Dake begins creating a graduate program within the College of Nursing. Her hope is the graduate program will eventually produce nurses with the qualifications to become professors.

1969: The first class of graduate students begins coursework in September. There are nine students.

1971: Dr. Dake resigns as dean of the College of Nursing. During her tenure, she and her colleagues helped establish a new curriculum that spread nationwide during the 1960s and 1970s. By the time Dr. Dake resigns, enrollment in the College of Nursing has grown nearly 350 percent, from 35 women in 1964 to 512 undergraduate students in 1971.

1972: Dr. Marion McKenna is appointed dean of the College of Nursing. Aware of the exponential growth the College of Nursing is facing, Dr. McKenna is hired on the condition that a new facility be created to house her school.

1975: The College of Nursing establishes nursing programs at Hazard Community College and Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro in hopes of making nursing education accessible to nontraditional and rural students.

1979: Dr. McKenna proposes the discontinuation of the baccalaureate program to focus solely on training registered nurses. However, the plan is not successful, and the original basic baccalaureate program is reinstated in May 1981.

1980: The Delta Psi chapter of Sigma Theta Tau is established at UK. Later in the year, Dr. McKenna begins establishing a doctoral program in the College of Nursing. 

1984: The College of Nursing announces Dr. Carolyn Williams as the new dean. Dr. Williams stresses the importance of research and publishing and emphasizes they will be required as the college continues to advance.

1985: Dr. Williams’ doctorate program is approved, and in 1987 the first doctoral student enrolls in the program.

1992: The first class of doctorate students graduates with PhDs.

2001: The College of Nursing begins to offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program, the first in the nation. The DNP Program prepares nurses for advanced practice, clinical leadership and executive positions in health care systems. The first class of DNP students graduates in 2005.

2006: Dr. Williams resigns as dean and rejoins the faculty. Dr. Jane Kirschling becomes the fourth dean of the College of Nursing.

2006: The PhD program begins its Post-BSN Option, which builds on the BSN degree and prepares nurse researchers at the doctoral level.

2007: The first class is inducted into the College of Nursing Hall of Fame. The College of Nursing successfully doubles undergraduate student enrollment in the BSN program – from 80 students to 160 students – in an effort to alleviate nursing shortages in Kentucky and across the nation.

2008: Dr. Kirschling and Dr. Jay Perman, dean of the College of Medicine, establish a work group to evaluate interest in an Interprofessional Education (IPE) curriculum for the Medical Center – the IPE curriculum is approved in 2010.

2009: The Masters of Science in Nursing program ends and becomes part of the DNP program. Post-baccalaureate students are now able to directly enroll in the DNP program.

2010: The College celebrates its 50th anniversary.

2011: The second class is inducted into the College of Nursing Hall of Fame.

2012: Dr. Patricia Howard is appointed interim dean.

2013: The College of Nursing partners with Norton HealthCare to offer the DNP Program to practicing nurses.

2014: Dr. Janie Heath is appointed as the fifth dean of the College of Nursing. 

2017: The College celebrates 30 years of the PhD program, including its growing class of 135 PhD alumni. 

2017: Dr. Carolyn Williams becomes the third faculty member to become a Living Legend, after Drs. Juanita Fleming in 2004 and Muriel Poulin in 2012.