University of Utah College of Nursing celebrates 75 years

Marla De Jong, dean of the University of Utah College of Nursing, speaks at a gala Thursday held in celebration of the college's 75th anniversary.

Marla De Jong, dean of the University of Utah College of Nursing, speaks at a gala Thursday held in celebration of the college's 75th anniversary. (University of Utah College of Nursing)


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SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah College of Nursing celebrated the 75th anniversary of its creation this week with a gala, a drone show and a ceremony honoring nurses who graduated from the program over 50 years ago.

"For 75 years, the College of Nursing has been dedicated to shaping the future of health care through the education and empowerment of our nurses," said Marla J. De Jong, at the gala on Thursday.

De Jong is the seventh dean of the U. College of Nursing. She joined the faculty in 2017 and became dean in 2020.

"From my first day to today, I have been nothing short of impressed by the quality of work and the people affiliated with our college of nursing," she said.

De Jong said faculty, staff and students give their best effort and make the college great. She thanked them during her gala speech.

"I'm pleased to say we are the highest-ranking nursing program in the state of Utah," she said. This week, the school was ranked 31st for its Bachelor of Nursing Science program out of 656 schools in the U.S.

Over the last 75 years, De Jong said the college has continued to evolve and is meeting current needs.

"If the first 75 years have taught us anything, it's taught us that our work in patient care, research and education is essential — but our work is not done yet," she said.

A drone show was planned to celebrate the year of the nurse and the midwife in 2020. But when the COVID-19 pandemic forced its cancellation, college administrators decided to use the show for this anniversary.

University of Utah President Taylor Randall also spoke at the gala, sharing a recent experience where nurses helped him feel comfortable when he was a patient with an ingrown toenail. He said although they have good ratings, that is not what the students and professors are motivated by; it's the patients.

"In those moments of bereavement, you have to know the exact right thing to say. Can you think of a more difficult profession to be in in the entire world? I cannot," Randall said.

Nurses in the 1970s received training at the University of Utah College of Nursing. The college celebrated its 75th anniversary this week.
Nurses in the 1970s received training at the University of Utah College of Nursing. The college celebrated its 75th anniversary this week. (Photo: University of Utah library archives)

Dr. Michael Good, CEO of University of Utah Health, said the College of Nursing started out in Building 430, a converted surplus barracks, and has grown since then and filled a more modern building.

"Throughout this rich history, the college has blazed many new trails making significant contributions to nursing education," Good said.

As an example, he said the U. College of Nursing was a leader in synchronous distance education and is the oldest program that grants nursing degrees with remote synchronous learning. He said it was beneficial for the University of Utah, the College of Nursing and other schools to have their remote model already established before the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said the nurse workforce is larger than any other health profession, and they also have a broad scope.

"We cannot overstate how important and how impactful nurses are in general, but especially those that come from our college," Good said.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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