Barbara Graham

Retired Nurse Educator Invests in the Power of Knowledge

Barbara A. Graham (Nursing ’70, ’75; Curry ’81)

When Barbara Graham finished high school, she faced a choice between two different career paths—physical education or nursing. While both appealed to her, friends encouraged her to choose nursing and she entered a three-year diploma program. She has never regretted her decision. “It has been a wonderful profession for me,” said Ms. Graham, U.Va. associate professor of nursing emerita.

For more than a decade, Ms. Graham worked as a registered nurse in hospitals in Lynchburg and in public health in Northern Virginia. But she knew she would need a bachelor’s degree to advance her career, so she came to the University of Virginia in 1968 to work toward a bachelor of science degree in nursing. She received her degree in 1970.

“While attending the RN to BSN program, I realized the value of it right away,” she said. “It broadened my perspective of the health care system and helped me set some career goals.” She received an offer from then Dean Mary Lohr to teach at the School of Nursing and, on completing a master’s degree at Emory University, returned to U.Va., where she taught courses on public health. At the same time, she continued her education at the University, earning a certificate as a pediatric nurse practitioner in 1975 and receiving a doctorate in education in 1981. She retired in 1994.

Ms. Graham was so inspired by the impact of the RN to BSN program on her life that she wanted to make the same opportunity available to others. She pooled her resources with nine other program graduates to create the RN-BSN Leaders Scholarship, which was fully endowed in 2000. Since then, she has made additional provisions for the scholarship as well as for the School of Nursing Alumni Association by naming both as beneficiaries of her individual retirement account. She appreciated having the option of dedicating some of the assets in her IRA to the University.

Ms. Graham has always admired the University as one of the premier institutions of higher education in Virginia. She’s pleased “it continues to strive to be in the upper echelon of public institutions around the country and continues to attract attention for the quality of its education.”