Campus Community Health • HEERF I, II & III


Tech’s Whitson-Hester School of Nursing celebrates 40 years of graduates

A student works in the patient sim lab in the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing.From its start in a four-room building adjacent to the main campus to today’s placement in a 65,500 square foot building bookending the historic academic quad, Tennessee Tech’s Whitson-Hester School of Nursing has had a story of continuous growth. This year marks the school’s 40th year of graduates.  

“In 40 years, the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing has graduated over 2,700 nurses and/or advanced practice nurses with baccalaureate, master’s or doctorate of nursing practice degrees,” Kim Hanna, dean and professor of nursing at Tech, said. “This 40-year milestone represents the thousands of patients who have been impacted by their care. The graduates of our program have drastically changed the accessibility and quality of healthcare in the Upper Cumberland region.”

To mark this milestone the school will be hosting a celebration this Friday, Sept. 23, from 1-5 p.m. at Robert and Gloria Bell Hall.

 Alumni, current students, clinical partners and members of the Upper Cumberland community are all invited to attend.  Special guest speakers will include Cookeville Mayor Laurin Wheaton, Tech President Phil Oldham, university Provost Lori Mann Bruce, former Tech President Bob Bell, emeritus nursing faculty, former associate vice president Rebecca Tolbert, and graduates from throughout the school’s history.

Following an informal reception beginning at 1 p.m. and speakers at 2 p.m., guests are invited to tour Robert and Gloria Bell Hall. Named in honor of past Tennessee Tech president Bob Bell and his wife, Gloria, who served from 2000-2012, the building opened in 2008 on the site of the former Smith Quad residence halls. The building holds laboratories that replicate hospital settings and a lab for basic nursing skills, a women’s health and pediatrics lab and a critical care lab. This expanded facility has been essential to the school’s efforts to meet the demand for registered nurses and advanced practice nurses in the Upper Cumberland.

The Whitson-Hester School of Nursing is itself named after the late philanthropist Larry Hester, who donated $4 million in funding to the school in memory of his wife Jean Whitson Hester, granddaughter of one of Tennessee Tech’s founders, Jere Whitson. Faculty members of the school will be presenting highlights from the school’s research, grant and community engagement projects.

“As a graduate from the school’s second-ever class, I certainly realize from where we came from and the people and events that led up to a community that so desperately realized the need for nursing at Tennessee Tech,” Hanna said. “I believe that the community needed the school and the school needed the community, its clinical partners, and its people to forge ahead with the dream that has become a reality.”

Parking is available at the baseball fields behind Tech Village adjacent to University Drive and N. Franklin Avenue. Shuttle service will run from the lot to the event from 12:30-5:30 p.m.

“I am so proud of our alumni and all nurses for their dedication, commitment, and provision of care to the patients of the upper Cumberland and beyond,” Hanna said. “We are celebrating our 40 years of graduates and all nurses, regardless of their alma mater. This is our opportunity to say thank you for being on the frontlines, for your sacrifices, and for being our heroes! Everyone in their lifetime will encounter a nurse during their healthcare experience. Let’s celebrate nurses for making a difference in our lives and in our communities!”

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