Vanderbilt University Honors Its Former Dean of the School of Nursing, the Late Colleen Conway-Welch

The new atrium in the headquarters of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing has been named in honor of Colleen Conway-Welch. The new atrium connects the four major buildings that make up the School of Nursing. The four-story atrium features a floor-to-roof glass wall and skylights that let in natural light, an artisan-crafted wall constructed with basswood from a tree removed from the site, a wide monumental staircase designed to encourage movement and interaction, various places for student study and student-faculty engagement, and an open, welcoming reception area. Conway-Welch’s official portrait by renowned artist Michael Shane Neal has been installed in the space.

Dr. Conway-Welch served as dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing from 1984 until 2013. She died on October 12, 2018, after suffering from cancer.

A native of Monticello, Iowa, Dr. Conway-Welch attended 17 different schools by the time she was in the seventh grade due to the fact that her father worked in construction and moved frequently. Dr. Conway-Welch enrolled at the Georgetown University School of Nursing in Washington, D.C., at the age of 16. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown and went on to earn a master’s degree at the Catholic University of America and a doctorate at New York University.

After working in Honolulu and San Francisco, Dr. Conway-Welch accepted an offer to direct the nurse-midwifery program at the University of Colorado Health Science Center in Denver. In 1984, she became dean of the School of Nursing at Vanderbilt University and served in that role for 29 years. In 2013 she retired and was named dean emerita.

During her time as dean, Dr. Conway-Welch established an accelerated master’s degree program, a Ph.D. program, and a doctor of nursing practice program.

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