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Our Early Leaders

Throughout the 125 years of Nursing at Penn, a number of leaders have been at the helm at historic moments that have shaped the School of today.  From an exhaustive list, we have highlighted some of the most inspirational early leaders: Jane Delano, Iris Machlan Gross, Theresa Lynch and Dorothy Mereness.

Jane A. Delano

Jane A. Delano

In 1890, Jane A. Delano became the Assistant to the Superintendent of Nursing and an instructor for the HUP School of Nursing. During her time at the School, she extended the curriculum to three years, initiated a formal graduation, and commissioned the design of the school pin and red and blue cape.  Delano later founded the American Red Cross Nursing Service and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by direction of the President of the United States and under the provisions of the Act of Congress.

Iris Machlan Gross

Iris Machlan Gross HUP’46, Ed’49, GEd’54

Iris Machlan Gross (1925 – 2009) served as the Director of the HUP School of Nursing from 1960 until its closing in 1978, during which time she demonstrated her passion for the advancement of nursing education.  She graduated from the HUP School of Nursing in 1946. She subsequently earned her bachelor’s degree in education in 1949 and her master’s degree in 1954, both from the University of Pennsylvania.

Gross was instrumental in integrating innovative new programs into the curriculum as part of her belief that nursing education should be well rounded. After the closing of the HUP School of Nursing, Gross was recruited by HUP to implement training courses for the hospital employees and tuition-assistance programs. She continued her involvement by being an active member of the HUP Alumni Association.

Many unique milestones and accomplishments marked Gross’ education and career. She began her nursing career as a Cadet Nurse during World War II. As a nursing student she was interviewed for the historical study on sexuality, the Kinsey Report. She received the Letitia White Award for the highest general average upon her graduation in 1946. As a HUP nurse, she administered the very first penicillin given at the hospital. She was among the committee members who proposed the early plans for the construction of the TRINEB building, now named Claire M. Fagin Hall. During her illustrious career she was a member of University Women, University Women Faculty Club and the Alpha Omega Omitron Pi Sorority. She served twice as President of the Southeastern Pennsylvania League of Nursing.

Theresa I. Lynch

Theresa I. Lynch HUP’20

Theresa I. Lynch (1896-1994), EdD, RN, was an educator, administrator, practitioner, and author whose foresight, determination, and confidence to fight the conservative establishment enabled her to become a pioneer in the development of the nursing profession. Lynch was born in a family of five children in Winchester, Virginia, on August 9, 1896. Her father was a lawyer and her mother was a "great social and civic leader". With objections from her parents, who believed that nursing was inappropriate for "a lady," Lynch chose nursing as her career and earned a diploma in nursing from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania training school in 1920. Her experience in nursing combined with an earlier degree in education enabled Lynch to become director of nursing at the Willard Parker Hospital of Communicable Diseases in New York.

Lynch later left Willard to become director of an innovative new program at New York University which focused on the teaching of nursing theory. After six years at NYU, Lynch was recruited by her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania to direct its nursing program. In this capacity, Lynch completely reorganized the program and was instrumental in the establishment of the School of Nursing as a Division of Medical Affairs in 1944. Lynch, however, was not satisfied with the arrangement. She fought the male-dominated leadership that was opposed to an independent school of nursing. Lynch won the battle. In 1950, an independent School of Nursing was founded at the University of Pennsylvania, and Lynch was immediately named its dean.

Dorothy A. Mereness Dorothy A. Mereness

In 1965, Dorothy A. Mereness (1911-1991), EdD, RN, became the second dean of the School of Nursing at Penn. The following year, major changes in the Master's curriculum were initiated. Admission and promotion standards were raised and implemented. The curriculum was lengthened from two academic semesters and two summer sessions to four academic semesters. All of the clinical programs were reorganized. Born in Kearney, Missouri, Mereness was first an elementary school teacher before becoming a nurse.  In addition to her roles at the University, she worked at some of the nation's top nursing schools including the University of Pittsburgh, Boston University and New York University. Mereness published 45 articles and books, including a textbook used in most undergraduate programs.