Columbia Nursing Celebrates 125 Years of Nursing Excellence

Our History

The History of Columbia University School of Nursing

Columbia University School of Nursing's impact began over 125 years ago when it opened its doors in 1892. It was then that Anna C. Maxwell, the school's first dean, set the standard for nursing education and service that would become the foundation for Columbia Nursing's excellence for decades to come. It was Maxwell's pioneering spirit and unwavering belief in the power of nursing that opened new horizons for the profession and paved the way for today's nurse clinicians and scientists.

Today, this legacy lives on, as Columbia University School of Nursing continues to innovate, lead, and transform the education and profession of nursing.

Explore the timeline below to learn about Columbia Nursing's history and milestones.

If you would like to learn more about our rich history of excellence and leadership, historical documents, yearbooks, announcements, annual reports, student handbooks, and alumni magazines are available digitally at the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library of Columbia University Archives and Special Collections site.


  • 1892

    Presbyterian Hospital Training School for Nurses is founded. Later renamed the Columbia University School of Nursing, it is one of the first nursing schools in the nation.

    black & white Presbyterian Hospital Training School with community members and horse-drawn carriages looking
  • 1892

    Anna C. Maxwell becomes the school’s first dean. She served as dean until 1921.

    black & white headshot of Anna Maxwell
  • 1894

    The school’s first class of 21 graduates.

    yellow faded black & white class photo of nursing students
  • 1899

    The Alumnae Association of the Presbyterian Hospital Training School for Nurses in the City of New York is incorporated.

    photo of the bill of incorporation of the Alumnae Association of the Presbyterian Hospital Training School for Nurses in the City of New York
  • 1904

    Florence Nightingale Hall, the school's first residence, opens on East 71st Street, opposite Presbyterian Hospital.

    Black and white brick Nursing school building.
  • 1904

    Students staff Presbyterian Hospital’s new visiting nurse service, predecessor to the hospital’s department of social work, one of the first in the U.S.

    Nurse at bedside with young male patient on bed and family of five around him.
  • 1921

    Helen Young serves as dean. She serves as dean until 1937.

    black white headshot photo of Helen Young
  • 1928

    Maxwell Hall, the school’s new home, opens within the new Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and plays a central role in helping to create the first medical center.

    tall black & white photo of brick building with many windows
  • 1937

    The School of Nursing joins Columbia University.

    Statue raising arms in front of columned building at Columbia University.
  • 1937

    Margaret Conrad serves as dean. Conrad is the first leader of the school under its new affiliation with Columbia. She serves as dean until 1950.

    black & white headshot of Margaret Conrad
  • 1940

    The first bachelor of science degrees are awarded to students.

  • 1949

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower (far left) congratulates graduates of the class of 1949.

     black & white photo of President Eisenhower shakes the hand of a newly graduated nurse
  • 1950

    Eleanor Lee serves as dean. She serves as dean until 1950.

    black & white headshot of Eleanor Lee
  • 1952

    Columbia Nursing becomes a member of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Nursing.

  • 1956

    Columbia Nursing becomes the first school to award a master's degree in nurse midwifery.

    Nurse taking the foot of a newborn baby to document the imprint on a clipboard
  • 1958

    Sylvia Whitehead, one of the school’s first African American student graduates from Columbia University School of Nursing.

    Headshot of young female African American nursing student.
  • 1961

    Elizabeth Gill serves as dean. She serves as dean until 1968.

    black & white headshot of Elizabeth Gill
  • 1964

    The Alpha Zeta chapter of Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honor Society is formally installed.

    black & white photo of smiling members of the Alpha Zeta chapter standing proud
  • 1965

    The psychiatric mental health nursing specialty is introduced.

  • 1968

    Mary Crawford serves as dean. She serves as dean until 1976.

     black & white photo of Mary Crawford
  • 1970

    The first male students, Ramon Lavandero '72 and John Mladinich '72, are admitted into Columbia Nursing.

    black & white photo of  two male students sitting down and smiling
  • 1976

    Helen Pettit serves as dean. She serves as dean until 1981.

    black & white headshot of Helen Pettit
  • 1981

    Joann S. Jamann-Riley serves as dean. She serves as dean until 1985.

    black & white photo of Dean Jamann-Riley at a computer
  • 1981

    The acute care specialty is introduced.

  • 1984

    The pediatric specialty is introduced.

  • 1984

    Oncology nursing specialty is introduced in collaboration with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

    black & white photo of two nursing students helping each other get their personal protective equipment on
  • 1984

    The Georgian Building becomes the new home to Columbia Nursing students.

    photo of the present-day Georgian Building
  • 1986

    Mary Mundinger serves as dean. She serves as dean until 2010.

    black and white headshot of Mary Mundinger
  • 1988

    Columbia Nursing becomes the first nursing school to require all faculty to establish either a clinical practice or research program.

  • 1990

    The Family Nurse Practitioner Program is introduced.

  • 1990

    The Nurse Anesthesia program is introduced.

  • 1994

    Columbia Nursing establishes the Doctor of Nursing Science program (DNSc), which converts to the PhD program in 2008.

  • 1995

    Columbia Nursing becomes the first nursing school to establish an endowed chair in health policy.

  • 1996

    Columbia Nursing becomes the first school to be named a World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Advanced Practice Nursing, a designation recognizing its expertise and commitment to advanced practice nursing.

    World Health Organization logo
  • 1997

    Columbia Nursing establishes Columbia Advanced Practice Nurse Associates (CAPNA), the first independent primary care faculty practice. CAPNA nurse practitioners are compensated at the same rate as primary care physicians.

    black & white photo of a group of four nurses standing proudly next to the sign of CAPNA
  • 1998

    Columbia University School of Nursing Alumni Association is established (2018 Board of Directors pictured).

    Group of board members smiling in Columbia University School of Nursing lobby.
  • 2000

    A groundbreaking Columbia Nursing study in the Journal of the American Medical Association conclusively shows no difference in patient outcomes for patients randomly assigned to nurse practitioners or physicians.

  • 2002

    Columbia Nursing becomes the first nursing school to establish a palliative and end-of-life care sub-specialty.

  • 2004

    Columbia Nursing is among the first schools to develop and offer a doctoral degree in clinical nursing, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

    Twenty nursing faculty members smiling and wearing nurse practitioner coats.
  • 2010

    Bobbie Berkowitz serves as dean. She serves as dean until 2018.

    headshot of Bobbie Berkowitz
  • 2010

    Columbia Nursing forms a consortium with Oslo University School of Nursing and other European schools to develop advanced nursing curricula.

  • 2012

    Adult NP and geriatric NP programs combine to create the Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program.

  • 2014

    Columbia Nursing breaks ground at the site for the school's new building.

    two male and one female executive posing with shovels to celebrate building groundbreaking
  • 2015

    The Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare moves into Columbia Nursing via an $11.1 million, 10-year grant.

    logo of the Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare
  • 2016

    Columbia Nursing hosts the Global Nursing and Midwifery Clinical Research Development Initiative in Amman, Jordan. Experts from 22 countries in the eastern Mediterranean region identify methods to address critical regional health needs.

    Five women and one man sitting at a long table in a meeting.
  • 2016

    Columbia Nursing debuts its Master's Direct Entry curriculum preparing nurses to serve as leaders in an evolving healthcare system.

  • 2016

    Columbia Nursing renames CAPNA as the Nurse Practitioner Group and opens a location in Washington Heights.

    A group of seventeen professionals, some wearing white nurse practitioner coats, standing in front of new faculty practice before cutting ribbon to celebrate the opening.
  • 2017

    Columbia Nursing’s new building opens. The school celebrates 125 years of transforming the education and profession of nursing.

     Glass School of Nursing building on a sunny summer day.
  • 2018

    Lorraine Frazier serves as dean.

    Headshot of Dean Lorraine Frazier wearing bright pink blazer.
  • 2019

    Columbia Nursing forms its first Student Council in two decades.

    Five students together smiling.
  • 2020

    Columbia Nurses serve on the COVID-19 pandemic front lines, including vaccination efforts.

    Collage of nurses.
  • 2020

    The Center for Research on People of Color is established.

  • 2020

    Columbia Nursing debuts its Online Prerequisites for Entry to Nursing (OPEN) program, allowing non-nurses to take prerequisites needed to apply to nursing or other health professions schools.

  • 2021

    The Centers for Healthcare Delivery Research and Innovations and Sexual Gender Minority Health Research are established.

  • 2021

    Doctor of Nursing Practice in Nurse Anesthesia Program launches.

    Anesthesia students in the simulation operating room.
  • 2021

    Columbia Nursing becomes the first nursing school to offer a Certificate of Professional Achievement in Transgender Health Care.

    Close up of stethoscope on top of rainbow flag.