Betsy Nield Nursing Heritage Library honors professor committed to ‘connecting past with future’

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 28, 2009 – Nursing leaders in Rhode Island, friends and family paid tribute to Betsy Nield, a University of Rhode Island graduate and retired Community College of Rhode Island nursing professor for her efforts to preserve the history of nursing in Rhode Island.

During recent ceremonies at White Hall, home to URI’s College of Nursing, the facility’s renovated and expanded library was renamed The Betsy Nield Nursing Heritage Library. While surrounded by her children and grandchildren, Nield was repeatedly embraced by her friends.

The Narragansett resident, who has Parkinson’s disease, worked in the Heritage Library throughout the summer with volunteer Sybil Akins, a student in URI’s master’s degree program in library science. In her brief remarks, Nield thanked Harry, her husband of 47 years “who provided the shuttle between Great Island and URI,” as well as her close friends in the nursing profession.

Nield also worked closely with Sandra Zion, co-chair of the nursing honor society’s Heritage Committee. Zion said Nield’s leadership and vision were responsible for keeping the chapter’s heritage program alive. “Congratulations Betsy on this well-deserved recognition,” Zion said.

The library, which was renovated thanks in large part to a grant from the Champlin Foundations, houses historic books, photos, posters and records of nursing in Rhode Island.

Dayle Joseph, dean of the College of Nursing, said the library now has dignified home. “This started out as a small closet, but now we have beautiful space where students, faculty and professionals can see how nurses use to feed patients, the syringes they used,” Joseph said. “We have so much to thank Betsy for.”

M. Patricia B. Quigley, president of Delta Upsilon Chapter at-Large of Sigma Theta Tau International, said Nield persevered in her quest to preserve significant historical and archival materials to ensure they are maintained for future generations.

“Speaking for the board of directors and members of Delta Upsilon Chapter, I thank Betsy for recognizing the importance of connecting the past with the future in a way that will be accessible to all people of the state of Rhode Island.”

Nield, who graduated from URI in 1962 as one of the members of the last class to complete a five-year bachelor’s degree in nursing, earned her master’s degree in nursing from URI in 1978. She was a professor of medical surgical nursing at CCRI for 28 years and held a one-year-teaching assignment at URI.

In 1995, the local chapter of Sigma Theta Tau was awarded the Heritage Award, due in large part to Nield’s efforts to preserve the historic record of nursing in Rhode Island. The dedication program noted that Nield epitomizes “the spirit and mission of Sigma Theta Tau International to support the learning, knowledge and professional development of nurses committed to making a difference in health worldwide.”

One of Nield’s grandchildren agreed. “This is awesome and it’s very special,” Emma Gammell said. “She deserves this because she dedicates a lot to nursing. She helps people a lot.”

Pictured above

FAMILY MAKES CELEBRATION COMPLETE: Family members gather around Betsy Nield during ceremonies at the University of Rhode Island College of Nursing to dedicate The Betsy Nield Nursing Heritage Library. In the back row from left are son Jeffrey and grandchildren Emma Gammell, Hillary Cianciolo and Justin Gammell. In the front row are grandson Kai Nield, Betsy Nield and granddaughter Lillian Cianciolo. URI Department of Communications and Marketing Photo by Michael Salerno.