College of Nursing Heritage

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In the Fall of 1973, four faculty members and a director established the Division of Nursing in the Coordinate College of Health Professions.

USA Historical Timeline

Visit this webpage for a historical timeline for the University of South Alabama.

College of Nursing Historical Background

The University of South Alabama was created by an act of the Alabama State Legislature in May 1963 and was opened in June 1964. In the Fall of 1973, four faculty members and a director established the Division of Nursing in the Coordinate College of Health Professions. In December 1976, after graduating the first 23 graduates with the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, the Division of Nursing was accredited by the National League for the maximum eight-year period. The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program was initiated Fall Quarter of 1981 and was visited a year later by the NLN. The program was granted initial accreditation for eight years by the NLN and the undergraduate program received approval for continuing accreditation for eight years. In 1992, the College of Nursing received the maximum ten-year accreditation for both the Baccalaureate and Graduate programs from the Council of Colleges of Nursing Education.
The location of the College of Nursing has changed 7 times during the period of 1974-2009. The program began in the Life Science Building, moving to the Medical Science Building, Brookley Campus, Business and Management Building, top floor of the Engineering Lab, Spring Hill Campus (formerly Providence Hospital), and the present location on the main campus. Each move was required because of growth. The student body numbered at 3,010 in 2011.

The national visibility of the College of Nursing is increasing as faculty publish in peer reviewed journals, write textbooks, that receive national recognition, and present at state, national, and international conferences. In addition, the College of Nursing has received competitive grants from external agencies.

Over the past 37 years, the College of Nursing has enjoyed exponential growth, increasing from 60 to 3,010 (2011) students with undergraduate (BSN) and graduate (MSN, DNP) programs.. The College of Nursing educated 9,400 nursing professionals providing quality health care around the world.


Between 1973 and the present, the College of Nursing has had one Director of Nursing and three Deans, each of whom has contributed significantly to the growth of the College of Nursing. 

  • Earline McRae1974-1977 Earline McRae, MSN, RN, initiated the program, graduated the first class of the College of Nursing, and introduced the RN to BSN program.

 The roots of the College of Nursing date back to the fall of 1973, when four facility members and a director began the Division of Nursing in the Coordinate College of Health Professions. Ms. Earline McRae was the director and the four faculty members were Carol Henderson (now Harrison), Joan Ralph, Frances Dunagan, and Mary Montgomery. Approximately 60 students were admitted to the program and 23 graduated in December of 1976. The nursing program was initially housed in the Life Science Building on main campus. It would soon move to the Medical Sciences building on campus and then out to Brookley into a three-story barrack. In 1976, after graduating the first group of students, the Division of Nursing applied for and received eight full years of accreditation from the National League for Nursing. Ms. McRae is now a successful real estate agent with ReMax in Mobile. 


  • Dora Mae Eldridge Blackmon1977-1989 Dora Eldridge Blackmon, EdD, RN, introduced the graduate program with two functional areas: Education and Management.

In 1977, the division of nursing was designated a school and Dr. Dora Blackmon was hired as the first dean. With Dr. Blackmon at the helm, enrollment continued to grow, new faculty and staff were hired, and new programs were developed to meet the needs of the community. A committee was convened in 1978 to develop a special track for RN's returning for the BSN. Prior to the establishment of the RN to BSN track, RN students were enrolled in classes with the pre-licensure students. The new RN to BSN track would be offered on an every other weekend format to facilitate working RN's returning to school. The same format would be adopted for the MSN program, which was initiated in 1981. The MSN program prepared nurse educators and nursing administrators with clinical preparation in Adult Health, Maternal Child Health and Community Mental Health. The nursing program made three moves during Dr. Blackmon's deanship. From the Brookley campus the program moved to the Business and Management Building on main campus. Following renovation, the school moved to the second floor of the Engineering lab building. In the :fall of 1987 the College moved to its current location on the Springhill Avenue campus. With a surge in enrollment, in 1984 the school became the fourth largest program on campus with 756 students. Dr. Blackmon was successful in seeing that the School of Nursing was named a College in 1985.
In 2003, at the age of 79, Dr. Blackmon died in an area nursing home.


  • Amanda Sirmon Baker1989-1998 Amanda Baker, EdD, RN, introduced the Clinical Specialist and Nurse Practitioner foci. She increased the number of MSN specialty areas to eight.

Dr. Amanda Baker was hired in 1988 as the second dean of the College of Nursing. In 1990, with an enrollment of 739 undergraduate students, the College was ranked 7th in the nation. This trend continued until the late 1990's when enrollments nationwide in undergraduate nursing programs experienced dramatic declines. However, enrollments in the MSN program would continue to grow. Under Dr. Baker's leadership, the College began its longstanding tradition of successful competition for federal funding through the Division of Nursing at the Department of Health and Human Services. Professional Nurse Traineeship grants were received and the amount increased every year. These grants funded many graduate students enrolled in the MSN program.
In response to the needs of the community additional tracks were added to the MSN program (clinical nurse specialist, executive nursing administration, and nurse practitioner tracks). The college received its first advanced training grant through the Division of Nursing in 1993 to fund the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program. The college would also be one of the first in the nation to receive funding for an acute care nurse practitioner track.
Dr. Baker is currently retired and lives in La Bell Florida with her husband.


  • Debra Calvert Davis1998-2017 Debra Davis, DSN, RN, introduced the concept of teaching online in the RN to BSN and MSN programs; expanded the BSN to the USA Baldwin County campus; initiated the Accelerated program for Baccalaureate Students; and started the Accelerated program for RN to MSN students.

After serving as the College's Associate Dean and Director of Graduate Studies for eight years, Dr. Debra Davis was hired as dean in 1998. During Dr. Davis' tenure the college has experienced tremendous growth. In the fall of 1998 the enrollment in the college of nursing was 964 and has grown to over 3000.. This growth reflects the reputation of the program in the community for offering high quality innovative programs.
College of Nursing faculty have achieve national recognition for quality in online education. In. 1999, the college received one official federal grant through the Division of Nursing to offer the RN to BSN online. Today, the RN to BSN is fully online as are eleven tracks in the MSN program and DNP program.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program is a professional degree that prepares graduates to provide the most advanced level of nursing care for individuals and communities.
The MSN program has been expanded and now has thirteen tracks. Seven are merged role nurse practitioner/clinical nurse specialist tracks In addition, the MSN program has an accelerated program for individuals with a non-nursing bachelor's degree, RN to MSN tracks, post-master's tracks, and a track for nationally certified nurse practitioners who hold the BSN as their highest degree.

Expansion has also occurred in the BSN program. Students are admitted three times per year and in the fall of 2002 the college began admitting students to the USA Baldwin county campus. In addition, students are admitted twice a year to an accelerated BSN program.

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