Ruby Leila Wilson Oral History Interviews, 1991-2007

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Wilson, Ruby Leila

Ruby Leila Wilson was the dean of the Duke University School of Nursing from 1971 to 1984.

Contains CD and transcript of an oral history interview with Ruby Leila Wilson. Major subjects in this interview include Wilson's experiences as a woman leader at Duke University. This interview was conducted on 14 September 2007 by Jessica Roseberry.

Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Contains CD and transcript of an oral history interview with Ruby Leila Wilson, former dean of the Duke University School of Nursing.

Biographical / historical:

Dr. Ruby Leila Wilson was born in 1931 in Punxsutawney, Pa., the daughter of Reverend and Mrs. C. H. Wilson. She graduated with honors from Punxsutawney High School and Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) School of Nursing in Pittsburgh, Pa. After completing a B.S.N.Ed. at the University of Pittsburgh in 1954 and after serving as night clinical instructor and supervisor at AGH for several years, she was appointed to Duke University School of Nursing as an instructor in Advanced Medical-Surgical Nursing in their new BSN program, serving from 1955 to 1957. After employment at Fort Miley VA Hospital in San Francisco, Calif., from 1957 to 1958, Dr. Wilson completed her MSN at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio in 1959, and then returned to Duke University. From 1968 to 1971, after completing her doctorate (Ed.D.) at Duke University, Dr. Wilson served as visiting professor and consultant in nursing with the Rockefeller Foundation at the Ramathibodi Hospital at Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand, where she assisted in developing educational and patient care programs. In 1971, she returned to Duke and was appointed dean of the School of Nursing, a position she maintained until 1984, when she became assistant to the chancellor for health affairs. Dr. Wilson has pioneered innovative nursing programs in both education and patient care. She, with Thelma Ingles, a Duke nursing colleague, developed the first clinical master's program in nursing in 1955-1956. She was the developing director of the The Hanes Project, a primary nurse program within the MSN curriculum in 1961-1962 that admitted patients to a nurse as well as a physician. In 1963, she developed and served in the first clinical nurse specialist position at Duke Medical Center, continuing her faculty appointments in the School of Nursing and Medicine and receiving a special appointment in the Department of Nursing Services at Duke Hospital. She is the only nurse to have a triad appointment in the medical center. Among many other accomplishments as dean, Dr. Wilson re-established the School of Nursing's graduate program, and her influence assisted in retaining the School of Nursing from 1978 to 1980, a time of university retrenchment. As a member of professional, academic, and community organizations, Dr. Wilson has served in numerous capacities. She has also lobbied for nursing and health issues on state and federal levels, as well as assisting in the drafting of bills and the writing of their regulations when approved. She was a presidential appointee the Federal Advisory Committee for Nursing. Dr. Wilson has received many honors, including being the first woman from the medical center to receive the Duke University Medal for Distinguished Meritorious Service (2006). She was elected to the prestigious Institute of Medicine (1976) and the American Academy of Nursing (1976). In 2007, the Ruby L. Wilson Professorship was established in her honor. She was recently awarded the inaugural Duke University School of Nursing Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of the Duke University Alumni Association (2008).

Acquisition information:
Acquired; 14 September 2007.
Processing information:

Processed by Jessica Roseberry, June 2008 Encoded by Dawne Howard Lucas, November 2008

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Duke University Medical Center Library's online catalog.


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Terms of access:

Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Ruby Leila Wilson Interview, Duke University Medical Center Archives.