UMass dedicates College of Nursing

  • Skinner Hall on North Pleasant Street the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the home of the College of Nursing. Photographed on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021.


  • Skinner Hall on North Pleasant Street is the home of the renamed Elaine Marieb College of Nursing. STAFF FILE PHOTO


Staff Writer
Monday, September 19, 2022

AMHERST — Nursing, like her own background in social work, is a core element in the future of health care leadership in Massachusetts, says Marylou Sudders, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary.

With a $21.5 million gift to the College of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts from the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Charitable Foundation, Sudders said, the Amherst campus is positioned to usher in a new era of nursing by taking the education of nursing students beyond the traditional focus on medicine, empathy and service to others.

“This gift is transformative,” Sudders said as she spoke during the dedication ceremony for the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing Monday afternoon, just a few steps from its home in Skinner Hall. “It puts nursing on the map.”

Announced about a year ago, the largest gift in UMass history honors the late Northampton educator known as an influential author of anatomy and physiology textbooks. The money will offer new opportunities to advance innovation in the nursing field and provide funding for more students to pursue nursing careers.

Joining UMass President Marty Meehan and UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswmay, as well as faculty in the program and student ambassadors from the nursing program, Sudders praised nurses for their central role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. At UMass, Sudders called out the nursing students who became the primary workforce for administering vaccines and and doing labwork.

The gift also offers the nursing profession the centrality and respect it deserves, Sudders said, adding that nurses’ knowledge can be vital in the development process for products.

Meehan said students deserve first-rate facilities and education, and that nursing will be a critical factor in the future of health care in the state. Massachusetts, he said, needs to be “laser-focused” on educating the next generation of nurses.

State Rep. Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, called nursing the backbone of the state’s health care workforce.

Even so, state Rep. John Lawn Jr., D-Watertown, who chairs the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, said that 5,000 positions in nursing are open in Massachusetts and, where at one time there weren’t enough beds, now it’s about making sure enough people are available to care for patients.

“We are really in a crisis and we need to start thinking outside the box about what we can do differently,” Lawn said. Lawn’s daughter went through the UMass nursing program, and his mother was also a nurse.

Marieb College of Nursing dean Allison Vorderstrasse said the financial support is critical for the Center of Nursing and Engineering Innovation, as it will cover student scholarships, an endowed professorship and efforts to increase student enrollment.

“We look forward to the tremendous impact this gift will have for many, many years to come,” Vorderstrasse said. She said naming a college of nursing is unusual.

Meehan used the event to praise Subbaswamy, who announced that he will be leaving UMass at the end of the academic year.

“If you guys want to help me out, I’m trying to get another year out of him,” Meehan said.

The ceremony came a day before the inaugural Innovation in Nursing and Engineering Symposium being held at the Student Union Ballroom. That event will include representatives from the American Nurses Association, Baystate Medical Center, The Ohio State University College of Nursing, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Researchers and faculty from the Elaine Marieb Center for Nursing and Engineering Innovation and prominent nurses and engineers from across the country will gather to learn about the center’s accomplishments and seed grant projects, nurse-engineer innovations, and to network and exchange ideas.

An afternoon panel will feature a discussion on industry-academic partnerships featuring key figures from the Massachusetts health innovation industry and notable research scientists. Also participating in an afternoon session will be nurses and engineers who are engaged in collaborative medical product innovations, such as the IV Smart Pump Initiative at UMass.