Eleanor A. Hall, Leader in Nursing Education, 95, Dies

July 19, 2009

Eleanor Abell Hall, R.N., M.A., chair of the Department of Nursing of the School of Medicine and Dentistry from 1957 to 1971 who is credited with paving the way for an independent School of Nursing, died July 14 at Highland Hospital. She was 95.

Hall’s tenure at the University of Rochester was marked by courage, tenacity and the pursuit of excellence. She achieved it on many levels but was perhaps proudest of elevating the Department of Nursing’s educational standards to a level that matched those set for the University’s other educational units. She was steadfast in her efforts to ensure that nursing students and faculty were respected and judged by the same criteria as their University colleagues. 

“Those of us who were privileged to know Ms. Hall will never forget the power of her indomitable spirit that inspired awe,” said Bethel Powers, professor at the School of Nursing.  “Those of us who came to know her as Eleanor will always remember her sharp sense of humor that, unable to hide a curious mixture of grace and determination, served her well throughout her life and inspired the love and admiration of countless persons who now honor and will forever hold her in fondest memory.”

In addition to her devotion to maintaining the highest academic standards, Hall also encouraged faculty to develop new clinical roles. She recognized the importance clinical scholarship would play as nurses would more regularly engage in interdisciplinary collaboration.

“Eleanor’s strong leadership and foresight as chair was critical to the revitalization of nursing education at Rochester and the transition of the department to the autonomous School of Nursing,” said Madeline Schmitt, professor emeritus at the School. “Professionally, she always put patients and families first. To her, the heart of nursing was the care nurses provided at the bedside.”

Born to Anna Abell and Edward Clinton Hall on June 14, 1914, in Naugatuck, Conn., Hall received a diploma in nursing from Presbyterian School of Nursing in New York in 1936. Following graduation, she went to work as head nurse in the women’s medical ward at the Presbyterian Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She returned to New York City in 1937 and received a bachelor’s degree in nursing supervision from Teachers College at Columbia University.

Hall held staff and head nurse, faculty, and administrative positions at various places including the Department of Nursing of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, the Women’s Medical College Hospital School of Nursing in Philadelphia, and the Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Nursing.

Following her time in Baltimore, Hall returned to Teachers College where she earned her master’s degree in nursing administration. In 1948, she accepted an appointment at Yale University, where she served as nursing clinical coordinator, associate professor of nursing, and assistant dean of nursing until 1957. That year she was recruited by the University of Rochester to serve as chair of the Department of Nursing Education in the School of  Medicine and Dentistry.

She guided the department through some difficult times. In 1957, National League for Nursing accreditation was lost. In response, Hall oversaw the development and strengthening of the program that led to the bachelor of science degree with a major in nursing. This and other changes in program offerings not only brought about reaccreditation in 1960, but also the strengthening of relationships between the Department of Nursing and the Medical Center and University. It also led to Hall’s appointment to the Advisory Board of the School of Medicine and Dentistry, providing nursing an unprecedented view of policy making at the Medical Center.

“It is impossible to overstate the impact that Eleanor had on the School of Nursing as it stands and operates today,” said Kathy P. Parker, dean of the University of Rochester School of Nursing. “She was deeply committed to ensuring that nursing was valued as a profession and an academic necessity at the University of Rochester. Her vision for nursing education is alive and well in our classrooms, our curriculum and the programs we offer.”

Hall was chair of the department of Nursing Education until 1971. In the years that followed, she worked on several special projects never wavering in her commitment to the School of Nursing.

Her accomplishments were honored by membership in the American Nurses Association, the National League for Nursing, the Rochester Academy of Science-Genesee Ornithological Society and the Rochester Committee for Scientific Information. In 1962, she received a citation from the Alumni Federation of the University of Rochester, and in 1990 she received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the School of Nursing at Columbia University. She was inducted into Epsilon Xi, the School of Nursing’s chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing, as an honorary member in 1991.

The Eleanor A. Hall Fund at the University of Rochester was established to provide an annual award to a graduate student in nursing. In 2002, the School of Nursing dedicated the Eleanor Hall Heritage Center to recognize her continuing support of the School and her efforts to preserve the School’s history.  

Hall is remembered by colleagues and friends not only for her many professional achievements but also for the friendships she lovingly nurtured through the years. “I am one among many — former students, faculty and staff at the University, friends in her neighborhood and in Maine, at her church, and in the community where she volunteered after she retired  who were privileged to develop a lasting relationship with Eleanor. She cared deeply about people of all ages and in all circumstances, about animals, the Earth, and nursing,” said Schmitt.

Hall was predeceased by her parents and a sister, Ruth, and good friend, Margaret Magee. She is survived by three nephews. A memorial celebration of her life will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, July 31, at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, 220 S. Winton Rd.

Friends wishing to make donations in her honor may consider the University of Rochester Eleanor Hall Award Fund. University of Rochester, Office of Advancement, 300 E. River Rd., P.O. Box 278996, Rochester, NY 14627-8993.

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