Johns Hopkins Gazette: June 10, 1996

Nursing Building
Under Way

Mike Field
Staff Writer
With sunny skies and a gentle breeze wafting from the south, university and hospital officials joined state and local dignitaries in turning over spadefuls of earth to inaugurate construction of the School of Nursing's new $17 million home June 6.

The groundbreaking, held in what had been, until recently, a parking lot, was more than just the addition of another new building to Hopkins' East Baltimore medical campus, however. To many, the ceremony marked the completion of a long-held dream.

"The building grants us a degree of legitimacy, it is a real symbol that we have arrived," said alumna Eileen Leahy ('78), who serves on the executive committee of the alumni council. "For the first time in more than 100 years, nurses will have a place to call their own."

Presently, the school is housed in five different buildings spread from Washington Street to the Bayview Center. "Our current limited space is restricting growth and threatening the continued excellence of our school's research and education programs in numerous ways," said Nursing dean Sue Donaldson in a prepared statement. "Not only are class and meeting rooms insufficient, but faculty members must share offices. We are unable to hire new faculty because of insufficient research space, a fact I find very disturbing."

The school's new home should alleviate the overcrowding problem for some time to come. The five-story structure will be located on the corner of Wolfe and McElderry streets, just across from the main entrance to the hospital. It will house lecture halls, seminar rooms, and wet and dry lab space as well as offices for faculty and administrators. The new space comes at a time many consider critical in the history of Hopkins nursing.

"Our need for a building is essential--and urgent," Donaldson said. "Since 1983, we have rented space from the hospital and the School of Medicine. When our numbers were smaller, that was sufficient. But we have grown to a point that the arrangement now hinders our progress."

Although nursing instruction predates even the School of Medicine at Hopkins--going all the way back to the founding of the hospital--the original arrangement was a hospital-based diploma program that emphasized practical experience over classroom work. In the early days, the all-female student body did most of their learning in the hospital setting. Outside the wards, their movements were carefully chaperoned and they lived nearly cloistered lives in Hampton House, the nursing dormitory owned by the hospital.

That program closed in 1973 and was followed, briefly, by the School of Health Services in the School of Public Health. Finally, in 1983, the School of Nursing was established as a separate, baccalaureate degree-granting division of the university. It has grown by leaps and bounds ever since, and the groundbreaking event was a celebration of those accomplishments.

University Board of Trustees chairman Michael Bloomberg hosted the afternoon ceremony, which included balloons, speeches and a huge cake built in the shape of the new building. "We have to make a contribution to society," Bloomberg said in his introductory remarks, "and I don't know of any group that contributes as much as nurses." Cheers arose from the audience of several hundred alumni, faculty and friends of Hopkins nursing. The new building--scheduled to open in the fall of '97--will contain 57,000 square feet of usable space, nearly double what the school currently rents. "We plan to grow into the building," said Charles Stanton, associate dean for finance and administration in the School of Nursing. "We'll now have the capacity to continue our growth patterns. This building will give us many options for the future."

The building will sit on a long, narrow lot donated to the nursing school by the hospital. One challenge in the design process was creating a structure that will seamlessly blend with its surroundings while displaying something of the nursing school's unique heritage and culture.

"Long, thin buildings are never easy to design," said project manager Mark Demshak of Ayers/Saint/Gross Inc., the architectural firm hired to produce the design. "We have tried to create a taut classicism that echoes the Welch Library. That building's treatment of surface is very distinguished."

Traditionally, Hopkins hospital buildings have been built of red brick, echoing design instructions left in Johns Hopkins' will. University structures on the East Baltimore campus, on the other hand, are of buff-colored materials, such as limestone and yellow brick. "The notable feature of nursing at the university is that it straddles both the practice and teaching of health care," Demshak said. "This building attempts to reflect that in the use of both red brick, at the pedestrian level, and lighter colored materials above."

Panels of cast stone, set in the facade at the north and south ends of the building, will display engraved quotes from nursing innovators who have influenced the profession through the years. Inside, the building will boast state-of-the-art facilities including several spaces designed and wired to accommodate the two-way video and voice requirements of distance learning. Practice labs, set up to look like real hospital rooms complete with beds, will enable students to familiarize themselves with the fundamentals of nursing care before starting clinical rotation.

Although plans for the new building have been in the works for several years, it was not until the state's General Assembly approved $2.5 million in funding for the construction that work was able to go forward. That approval came in the most recent legislative session and House Speaker Casper Taylor was on hand to congratulate the School of Nursing, lauding it for the notable community outreach efforts performed by both faculty and students in the school. Throughout the audience, nurses young and old basked in the glow of recognition.

"The push for this new building has been going on for many years now," said Leahy, who is a past president of the alumni association. "When I was president we got the momentum started by donating $400,000 to the building fund. Since then the effort has just snowballed, and now we've finally arrived. Everyone is just thrilled."

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