University of Calgary

Remembering first dean of Nursing, Marguerite Schumacher

UToday HomeJuly 3, 2013

Marguerite Schumacher led the School of Nursing at the University of Calgary in 1975 when it became a full faculty. Marguerite Schumacher led the School of Nursing at the University of Calgary in 1975 when it became a full faculty. Intelligent, respected, nursing education pioneer: these are descriptors used for the first dean of the Faculty of Nursing, Marguerite Schumacher, who died in Red Deer on June 10 at the age of 93.

Professor Emerita Schumacher came to the University of Calgary in 1974 as the third director of what was then known as the School of Nursing. (When the school officially became a faculty in 1975, Schumacher’s title changed to dean.) By that time, she had established herself as an administrative leader – first as the director of nursing at Grace Hospital in Winnipeg, and then as associate director of nursing education at Winnipeg General.

Professor Schumacher headed west to Alberta in 1958 and spent 10 years as the advisor to schools of nursing in Alberta and, following that, five years as chairperson of the new nursing program at Red Deer College. By the time she joined the faculty, she had a firm understanding of the political tensions around nursing in the ’60s and ’70s, having served for two years as the president of the Alberta Association of Registered Nurses and for two years as president of the Canadian Nurses’ Association.

“Although opinions among faculty members varied as to the type of new leadership they needed, Schumacher’s gentle and capable administrative skill was hard to resist,” wrote Geertje Boschma in her 2005 history of the faculty, Faculty of Nursing on the Move. In reviewing the faculty history during the faculty’s 40th anniversary celebrations in October 2009, Schumacher remarked that although her tenure as dean was a time of “stress and tension,” she was proud of the path the faculty was on.

“Faculty members were encouraged to pursue their masters and doctoral degrees and we had a proposal drafted for a master’s program," she remarked. “We had established a nursing research committee and also started one of the very first research projects undertaken by faculty. We had made much progress in a tumultuous time.”

“Marguerite Schumacher was a vibrant intellectual to her final days, and she was a personal inspiration to me,” commented Dianne Tapp, Faculty of Nursing dean. “During her final months, she was advocating for improved staffing and equipment for long term care facilities ― always a leader willing to speak out for the vulnerable. We are proud that her legacy has touched our faculty at the University of Calgary, and we will strive always to live up to her example.”

In 2010, an anonymous donor created the Professor Marguerite Schumacher Nursing Scholarship to support a student entering the Bachelor of Nursing Degree Program. One $1,000 scholarship is offered annually to honour her contributions to nursing education. A public service will be held for Schumacher on July 27 at Sunnybrook United Church, 12 Stanton Street, Red Deer at 1 p.m.