Brief History of the Solomont School of Nursing

The Solomont School of Nursing’s roots reach back to 1968, when then-Lowell State College President Daniel O’Leary hired Gertrude Barker to launch a nursing program. She was one of the few women at the time in the country with a doctorate, which was in health education. Barker and her colleagues inspired a trail of leaders. Some worked as registered nurses early in their careers, discovered there was a better way to care for patients and fought to change the system. 

The history of the program can be studied through the Nursing Collection made available to researchers at the university Library's Center for Lowell History, located at the Mogan Cultural Center.

May Futrell, who served as chair of the nursing program for 23 years, ushered in a new generation of high-level nurses. Seven years after the first nursing class began, Futrell secured over $2.2 million in federal funding to establish the nation’s first program that prepared Gerontological Nurse Practitioners at the master’s level. Below is a brief history of more notable accomplishments.

  • May Futrell at Nursing 50th anniversary in 2018
    May Futrell
    1967 – President Daniel H. O’Leary hired Gertrude F. Barker, Ph.D., to begin the nursing program at Lowell State College. She would later become Dean of the College of Health Professions 1974-1981. See To Enrich and to Serve.
    1968 – First B.S. Nursing students admitted
    1969 – Eleanor Forsley Shalhoup was first nurse faculty hire of Gertrude Barker 
    1970May Futrell (formerly May Holmes DiPietro), tenured Associate Professor at Boston University, was hired to shape the new nursing program at Lowell State College.
    1971 – Dr. Janice M. Stecchi joined the Department faculty, served as Chair 1980-1982, and later became the Dean of the College of Health Professions, 1991-2003 before retiring
    1972 – First B.S. in Nursing class graduates
    1974 – Eleanor Shalhoup was elected Chair of the Nursing Department
    1975 – The first M.S. degree in Gerontological Nursing Program, preparing Gerontological Nurse Practitioners, was established by  May Futrell, who served as the Coordinator and received over 10 years of US DHHS, HRSA funding as Project Director. This was the first program of its kind in the country.
  • 1980May Futrell elected Chair of the Department of Nursing; she retired in 2005. 
    1981 – Eleanor Shalhoup became Dean of the College of Health Professions; retired 1991.
    1981 – Adult/Family Nurse Practitioner Program track begun; May Futrell, Graduate Program Coordinator and Project Director, HRSA Professional Nurse Traineeships.
    1984 – Eta Omega, Sigma Theta Tau International Chapter established.
    1989 – May Futrell establishes the Nursing Archives at the Mogan Center
    1996 – PhD in Nursing program begins
    1996 – Adult Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program begins; active through 2015.
    1998 – MS GNP Program ranked in the top 15 in the country for this specialty by the U.S. News and World Report

  • 2003 – Dean Janice M. Stecchi retires from the College of Health Professions
    2005 – Karen Devereaux Melillo elected Chair of the Department of Nursing, 2005 through to 2014.
    2005 – May Futrell retires from Chair and Professor position, Department of Nursing
    2007 – “Bring Diversity to Nursing” project awarded Mass. Department of Public Health grant for Reducing Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, continuous funding through 2014 (Karen Devereaux Melillo, PI)
    2008 – “Bring Diversity to Nursing” project receives US DHHS, Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant, 2008-2012, 2012-2016 (Karen Devereaux Melillo, PI)
    2009 – Doctorate of Nursing Practice program begins
    2010 – “On the Move for Nursing’s future: Bring Diversity to Nursing” mobile simulation Laboratory bus, HRSA Division of Nursing, Equipment Grant (Jacqueline Dowling, PI)
    2010 - "DNPs Caring for the Underserved" nearly $1M grant, 2010-2014 (Susan Houde, PI)
  • 2013 – Department of Nursing was approved to become a School of Nursing 
    2013 - Nursing moves into the new Health and Social Science Building, April 2013 
    2014 – Karen Devereaux Melillo appointed Interim Dean, School of Nursing (2014-2019);  Vice Dean, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences (2018-2019)
    2014 -  Lisa Abdallah, elected Chair of Nursing, through 2020
    2017 – Donna Manning Endowed Faculty Chair in Nursing announced 
    2020 – Heidi Collins Fantasia elected Chair of the Solomont School of Nursing