The University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing Kearney Division will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a variety of activities on Saturday, Sept. 16. The division, located in the Health Education Science Complex on the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) campus, draws nursing students from a 100-125-mile radius around Kearney.
The anniversary celebration, which coincides with UNK’s homecoming weekend, includes a UNK homecoming parade from 10 to 11:30 a.m., a noon lunch and program, 2 p.m. tours of the Health Education Science Complex, a UNK football game and other events.
“Nurses are vital members of the health care team in the care, prevention of illness and promotion of health and wellness,” said Cathrin Carithers, D.N.P., assistant dean of the UNMC College of Nursing Kearney Division. “Education of future nurse leaders is central to our mission. We are excited to celebrate 40 years of the education of nurses in Kearney and surrounding communities. We look forward to many more years of community partnerships to improve health outcomes.”
The college has had a positive impact on health care in central Nebraska.
The first bachelor’s degree in nursing program west of Lincoln began at Kearney State College with the 1976 hiring of Judy Billings, Ph.D. She worked with the director of health programs at Kearney State College, Ole Kolstad, and David Clark, dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences, to develop a baccalaureate program in nursing.
In the spring of 1977, the Nebraska State Board of Nursing approved the new nursing program. The first two faculty members hired were Carol Janda and Sandra Blankenbaker.
The first class of 16 students graduated in May 1980 and since then, the division has graduated more than 1,670 students. In 1991, Kearney State College became part of the University of Nebraska and the nursing program became part of the Omaha-based UNMC College of Nursing.
The Kearney Division offers traditional and accelerated bachelor’s degrees, the registered nurse to bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, post-master’s certificates, a doctor of nursing practice degree and a doctor of philosophy degree.
The UNMC College of Nursing is the largest nursing school in the state with divisions in Omaha, Lincoln, Scottsbluff and Norfolk, as well as Kearney. The Kearney Division has 21 faculty, five staff, and 160 students enrolled.
Pre-registration for the anniversary celebration is required. For more details and the whole schedule, go to www.unmc.edu/alumni.
We are Nebraska Medicine and UNMC. Our mission is to lead the world in transforming lives to create a healthy future for all individuals and communities through premier educational programs, innovative research and extraordinary patient care.
Kearney State College
Department of Nursing
UNK Centennial Book
December 1969 Meeting to discuss feasibility of nursing program at Kearney State College. Participants – Representatives of community of Kearney, Kearney State College (KSC), Buffalo County Medical Society & Good Samaritan Hospital. Dr. Rena Boyle, Dean of College of Nursing, University of Nebraska discussed requirements of baccalaureate nursing programs
February 1970 Dr. Paul Gaer, Dean of Instruction at Kearney State College called meeting of community medical & nursing representatives from Grand Island, Kearney & Hastings to discuss feasibility of Baccalaureate Degree Program in Nursing at KSC
August 1971 State College Board of Trustees granted Kearney State College permission to conduct a feasibility study for a Nursing Program, budget, $13,235.00.
January 1972 Dr. Ole A. Kolstad, Head, Department of Biology appointed as Chairman of committee to determine need and feasibility of Nursing Degree Program at Kearney State College.
August 1972 Consultant from National League for Nursing visited campus to review planning for nursing program
1972/1973 School Council of the School of Natural and Social Sciences established the Nursing Degree Program as its highest priority for 1973/1974 academic year.
February 1974 State Board of Trustees endorsed the nursing program and recommended approval
Early 1974 Creation of Baccalaureate Nursing Program at Kearney State approved by Coordinating Council for Higher Education in the State of Nebraska and Nebraska Legislature
January 1975 Development of baccalaureate nursing program at Kearney State College was number one recommendation of The Sparks Report, Recommendations for a Statewide Plan for Nursing in Nebraska.
May 1974 Nebraska State Board of Nursing authorized planning of baccalaureate nursing program at KSC
Early 1975 Bureau of Health Manpower (federal) approved Nursing Special Projects Grant to fund initial development of nursing program at KSC.
May 1976 Judith L. Sims (Billings) employed to develop nursing program
March 19, 1977 Nebraska State Board of Nursing gave preliminary approval for program
January 1977 Program offices moved to second floor of West Center
Fall 1977 First baccalaureate nursing course was taught.
January 1978 Twenty-one students were admitted to the nursing major.
February 1978 Departmental Status granted and Ms. Judith L. Sims appointed as Chairman of Department of Nursing.
Summer 1978 Nursing Department moved to newly renovated area on first floor of West Center.
May 1980 First graduates of the program (16)
November 1980 Final approval granted by Nebraska State Board of Nursing (following graduation of first class).
Fall 1981 Kearney State received initial accreditation from the National League for Nursing.
Fall 1983 Began admitting students to major twice a year, each semester
Fall 1985 First RNs admitted to RN Upward Mobility Option
Fall 1987 Program expanded to 6 semesters (previously 5 semesters)
August 1987 LPN Progression Option implemented
Fall 1989 Reaccreditation granted by National League for Nursing
July 1991 Kearney State College became fourth campus of University of Nebraska
July 1991 KSC’s Department of Nursing became fourth campus of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Nursing
Discussion of a nursing program at Kearney State College began in December, 1969. During the next 18 months, discussions were held with representatives from Kearney State College, Buffalo County Medical Society, Good Samaritan Hospital, nursing and medical representatives from Kearney, Grand Island and Hastings. In August, 1971 the State College Board of Trustees granted approval for a feasibility study. Dr. Ole A. Kolstad, Head, Department of Biology was appointed to chair the feasibility study. Early in 1974 the State Board of Trustees, Coordinating Council for Higher Education in the State of Nebraska and the Nebraska Legislature all approved the development of a baccalaureate nursing program at Kearney State College.
In May 1976, Judith L. Sims Billings was hired as Program Director for a Bureau of Health Manpower grant that funded the initial development of a baccalaureate nursing program. Ole Kolstad, Director of Health Programs and Dr. R. David Clark, Dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences were instrumental in the early development of the program. The first two faculty members, Ms. Carol Janda and Ms. Sandra Blankenbaker, were hired in fall 1976; with Judy Billings, they worked throughout the next year developing the curriculum and policies for the program. In spring 1977, the Nebraska State Board of Nursing approved the program and the first course, a survey of nursing, was taught in fall 1977 to pre-nursing students. By January 1978 the first students had completed the pre-nursing requirements and were admitted to the nursing major. This first class of 16 students graduated in May 1980 with a Bachelor’s Degree. In fall 1981, the nursing program at Kearney State College was accredited by the National League of Nursing.
In response to increasing demand, the nursing major was expanded in 1983 when the program began admitting two classes each year. By 1985 the RN Upward Mobility Option was developed for Registered Nurses who wanted to receive a Bachelor’s Degree. In the 1987 the LPN Progression Option was developed for LPNs who wished to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree with a major in nursing. According to the National League for Nursing, Kearney State’s LPN-to-BSN program was one of the first in the nation. In 1991, Kearney State’s innovative LPN-to-BSN program was recognized nationally by the Teagle Foundation with a five-year, $685,000 grant to adapt the program for distance education. In 1991 Kearney State College became part of the University of Nebraska and the nursing program became the fourth division of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Nursing. The UNMC College of Nursing Kearney Division offers a baccalaureate nursing program, that includes LPN-to-BSN, RN-to-BSN programs and the accelerated BSN. The use of distance education technology allows both master’s and doctoral programs to be offered in the central Nebraska area.
In 2015, Health Science Education Complex at the University of Nebraska at Kearney Thursday during its grand opening and ribbon cutting. The event culminated nearly three years of planning and activity to bring the new $19 million Health Science building, a partnership between University of Nebraska Medical Center and UNK, to reality.