In Memoriam: Ruby Leila Wilson, 1931-2023

Ruby Wilson, dean emerita of the Duke University School of Nursing, died at her home on July 31. She was 92 years old.

An honor graduate of Punxsutawney High School in Pennsylvania, Wilson went on to graduate from Allegheny General Hospital School of Nursing in Pittsburgh. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Pittsburgh, a master’s degree in nursing degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and an educational doctorate from Duke University.

Dr. Wilson began her academic career as an instructor in advanced medical-surgical nursing at Duke University in 1955. During her early days at Duke during the Cold War, Dr. Wilson developed a program of national preparedness against nuclear warfare to shelter, feed, and care for the Durham community (then about 75,000 people) in the underground tunnel between West and East campuses at Duke. This was the basis for mass casualty drills for hospitals still in use today.

In 1968, Dr. Wilson was recruited by the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City to be a visiting professor and consultant at the School of Nursing of the Faculty of Medicine at the Ramathibodi Hospital of Mahidol University, in Bangkok, Thailand. She served there for three years.

In 1971, she was appointed dean of the Duke University School of Nursing. After leaving the deanship in 1984, Dr. Wilson was appointed assistant to the chancellor for health affairs at Duke. In 2008 the Duke University School of Nursing Alumni Association presented Dr. Wilson with the Lifetime Achievement Award.


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