October 30, 2017
Old school: U-M in History
In 1955, Rhoda Reddig Russell became the University of Michigan's first female academic dean when she was named to lead the School of Nursing. (Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library)
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Rhoda Reddig Russell arrived at the University of Michigan in 1940 to be the director of the School of Nursing, a professor of nursing and director of Nursing Services at University Hospital. Her title was changed to dean of the School of Nursing in 1955, making her the first female academic dean in U-M's history. According to the Board of Regents' proceedings, during her tenure, Russell saw the nursing school rise to national prominence. She was instrumental in raising the professional standards of nursing education, and pioneered several graduate nursing programs. She also was "an effective champion in gaining recognition of nursing as one of the major health professions and in achieving significant gains for nurses in their efforts to receive compensation and responsibility."