Nursing Leader Louise Fitzpatrick Passes Away | Teachers College Columbia University

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Nursing Leader Louise Fitzpatrick Passes Away

M. Louise Fitzpatrick (Photo Credit: Villanova University)
M. Louise Fitzpatrick (Photo Credit: Villanova University)
M. Louise Fitzpatrick (Ed.D. ’72, Ed.M. ’69; M.A.’68), an alumna and former Teachers College professor who went on to transform Villanova University’s College of Nursing into a national leader during her 40-year tenure as Dean, died in early September.

The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, Villanova’s president, called Fitzpatrick “a visionary” whose “legacy will live on at Villanova, in the College of Nursing and in the hearts and minds of everyone she has impacted.”

After earning her TC doctorate, Fitzpatrick became an associate professor in what was then the College’s Department of Nursing Education. She advised master’s and doctoral students who focused on nursing history and education, curriculum development and community health.  

In 1978, Villanova chose her to head its College of Nursing, a post she held for the rest of her life.

“I never expected it would be a lifelong effort, but it has become that,” Fitzpatrick, who held the title of Connelly Endowed Dean, said in a 2008 Philadelphia Business Journal profile.

Under her leadership, the College of Nursing developed centers to address Global and Public Health, Obesity Prevention and Education and Nursing Research. Fitzpatrick also extended the reach of the school to underserved populations in the U.S. and globally. Villanova nursing students worked in locales as far flung as South Africa and as nearby as inner-city Philadelphia.

“I think we bring a perspective that is helpful to people who are decision makers and have an important role to play as advocates for the public and their patients."
— M. Louise Fitzpatrick

“One of the things that makes our education at Villanova in the College of Nursing special and distinctive is the fact that we acknowledge that nursing, while a profession, is also a ministry,” Fitzpatrick told the Main Line Suburban Life in a 2013 interview. 

Fitzpatrick came naturally to both trailblazing and public service. Her mother, Bettina Galassi Fitzpatrick, earned a law degree in 1929 at a time when the legal profession was primarily a male domain. Her father, John Fitzpatrick, was Mayor of the family’s home town of South River, New Jersey.  

Fitzpatrick told the Philadelphia Business Journal that her introduction to “public health deficiencies” occurred as a teenage camp counselor – a job that “exposed” her to children lacking “access to even basic health care.”

Following high school, Fitzpatrick enrolled in a Johns Hopkins School of Nursing hospital training program where she specialized in public health.

Fitzpatrick eventually earned a BSN from The Catholic University of America and, eventually, a MA, M. Ed and Ed.D from Columbia University.

“I think we bring a perspective that is helpful to people who are decision makers and have an important role to play as advocates for the public and their patients,” she said of her teaching work. “In the future these young people who are being educated today [will] make a huge difference and positive strides in addressing the needs of society.”

Fitzpatrick was the author of several highly influential books, including Prologue to Professionalism: A History of Nursing (R.J. Brady, 1983) and Nursing in Society: A Historical Perspective (W.B. Saunders, 1983). Her many honors included the Distinguished Alumni Award of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association; the National League for Nursing’s Award for Outstanding Leadership in Nursing Education; an honorary degree from Villanova; the Nurse as Global Citizen Award of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association; and the Legion of Honor Gold Medallion of the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation. She was also Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and served as President of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Nursing Schools Association. – Steve Giegerich

Published Thursday, Sep 7, 2017

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