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TopBanner_CoverOur First 50 Years

In 1966, the Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh School of Nursing began with an enrollment of 27 students in a baccalaureate nursing program. Classrooms, faculty offices and a Nursing Arts Lab were located in Pollock House, the former home of William E. Pollock, president of Oshkosh Overall Company, now OshKosh B’gosh.

In the 1970s, WSU-O would become UWO and the School of Nursing would be changed to the College of Nursing (CON). As healthcare and technology evolved and changed through the years, UWO’s College of Nursing would grow and change dramatically.

BEGINNINGS 1966–1970

Helen Dorsch, dean from 1966 to 1975, was the founding dean of the WSU-O School of Nursing, now the UW Oshkosh College of Nursing (CON).


The Winnebago District Chapter of the Wisconsin Student Nurses Association is founded. It would later become the Oshkosh Student Nurses’ Association.


50Years2_Pg5_300The School of Nursing moves from the historic Pollock House to the newly completed Nursing Education Building.

GROWTH 1971–1979

Enrollment in the College increases to a capacity of 150 students per year.

The first class of students is admitted to the CON’s new Master of Science in Nursing Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (NP) Program created by Nancy Elsberry and Hildegarde Siegel. This is the first primary care NP program in Wisconsin.

Hildegarde Siegel is dean from 1976 to 1979. The first issue of the College’s newsletter, now called CONtact magazine, is published.


Dixalene Bahleda is dean from 1980 to 1989.

A bachelor’s degree completion program for registered nurses is established.

The CON Research Center is initiated to assist faculty and students with research and scholarly endeavors.

Eta Pi, the UWO chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International, is granted a charter in 1984.

The nursing skills laboratory is renovated with financial support from the Elmer Leach Foundation.

Barbara Prybyski is interim dean from 1989 to 1991.

TECHNOLOGY 1990–1999

Penny Cass is dean from 1992 to 1994.

The government-funded “Family Health/La Clinica” medical van is established and travels to migrant camps to provide exams and treatment for Wisconsin’s migrant workers and their families.

The first Nightingale Awards are given to honor bedside nurses in Oshkosh for clinical excellence in patient care.


Merritt Knox is dean from 1994 to 2004. Dean Knox leads CON faculty and staff into the computer age and through technological change.

The Graduate Achievement Program certificate in Primary Healthcare Nursing
is established.

The Living Healthy Community Clinic is established in the basement of the Nursing Education building.


The accelerated BSN second degree option is established.

Rosemary Smith is dean from 2005 to 2015.

The Simulation Laboratory is established.

The Great Lakes Chapter of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing is established.

International clinical opportunities are established in multiple sites around the world, including Africa, India, Nicaragua and Peru.

The Master of Science in Nursing for the Family Nurse Practitioner transitions to a Doctorate in Nursing Practice degree.

Leslie Neal-Boylan is named dean in 2015.

The CON Advisory Council and the Partnership Council are founded.

A quarterly alumni newsletter is launched.

INTO THE FUTURE 2015 and Beyond

CON commits to program expansion to ensure a strong future workforce.

CON moves into its new space in January 2016. A time capsule is dedicated and will be opened during the 100th anniversary celebration in 2066.

The College celebrates its 50th anniversary with an enrollment of more than 800 students in the 2015–2016 academic year.

Learn more:

  • When on campus, be sure to visit the College of Nursing History Wall in person.