Winter 2006
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TCU Magazine "Academe"

By Mark Wright

Undergarments nearly changed the course of nursing education at TCU. In October 1946, two accreditation committee members from the League of Nursing Education made a 10-day visit to Fort Worth.

“The one request made of students … was to refrain from doing their laundry until after the visitors had inspected the building.
Unfortunately, because there were no rooms available in any hotel in the city, the accreditation visitors were housed in the nurses' residence. They arrived on Saturday, but did not tour the residence until the following Friday. Since the students could hardly wait five or six days to do their laundry, and since they were unaware that the visitors had not yet inspected the residence, students en masse did their laundry on Thursday evening and left it hanging in their rooms. Most of the rooms were draped with wet underthings when the visitors toured the building on Friday morning. The visitors seemed surprised but made no comment.”

Such was an early episode in the saga of TCU's Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences, which this year celebrated its 60th anniversary. The college, which offered the first accredited baccalaureate nursing program in the state, was the brainchild of Fort Worth physician Charles H. Harris and his wife Lucy Harris, who believed changes in the medical field were creating new demands that required a more rigorous nurse-training program than the non-degree programs then offered.

Since 1912, Charles Harris had run a nursing school at his small general hospital at the corner of Rosedale Street and Fifth Avenue. In 1937, Harris agreed to take over the administration of the cash-strapped Methodist Hospital, renaming it Harris Methodist Memorial Hospital.

The Harris College of Nursing began as a partnership between Harris Methodist and TCU through contracts with the college's board of trustees. It was an uneasy alliance at first: “There was no objection to Texas Christian University per se, but obviously some [Harris board] members were not ecumenically inclined and saw this as a temporary arrangement.”

The arrangement proved more than temporary. In 1984, the college officially merged with TCU, disbanding its board. In 1973, Lucy Harris, the college's first dean, called Harris College “a pioneer in the development of baccalaureate education in nursing, particularly in Texas. … It has endured and has grown into an educational institution in which all who have had a part take pride.”

Those words still apply today.

Source: The Harris College of Nursing: Five Decades of Struggle for a Cause. By Lucy Harris. TCU Press, 1973.

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