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School of Nursing alumnae take in a mural commemorating the school’s 125th anniversary. The mural, which was unveiled Saturday at Claire Fagin Hall, is a 27-piece installation painted by 1976 Nursing graduate Kathy Shaver and features important figures and practices associated with the history of nursing.

Credit: Kathy Zhou , Kathy Zhou

A Florence Nightingale impersonator joined a crowd of over 200 trained nurses in Claire Fagin Hall on Saturday to celebrate the School of Nursing’s 125th anniversary with the unveiling of a mural.

Nursing alumni from across the United States watched as the mural, which paid homage to the history and practice of nursing, was unveiled in the lobby .

1976 Nursing graduate Kathy Shaver painted the 27-piece installation over the course of two years. While each oil painting has a unique contribution to the overall piece, Shaver believes that “not one piece can survive by itself.” The “interactive piece” circles around the Nursing School’s five themes: clinical judgment, inquiry, voice, engagement and care to change the world.

The mural also features important figures associated with the Nursing School’s history, including Red Cross founder Jane Delano and Mary Eliza Mahoney, the first black professional nurse.

Every five years, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Nursing Alumni Association organizes an event to mark the school’s anniversary. Often, the board looks to a former graduate to document the school’s history in a creative way. Five years ago, the board appointed a former alumna, who was also a commissioned writer to publish the history of the Nursing School in a book. This year, the board appointed Shaver to the task of documenting the school’s history through the creation of a mural.

In 2006, the HUP Nursing Alumni Association gathered at a luncheon to determine how the school would celebrate the next anniversary.

At the luncheon, one board member mentioned the murals she saw downtown. While the group liked the idea of an art piece to commemorate the event, they knew that since murals were usually outside, they often faded or became ruined.

The board then decided that they wanted a more permanent installment within the Nursing School itself, President of the Alumni Association and Nursing graduate of 1966 Candace Stiklorius said.

The only remaining variable was who would paint the mural. Shaver’s name was mentioned since she later pursued an art degree at the Moore College of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. When she was initially contacted about the project, she had never painted a mural before and worried that she lacked the skills.

However, Shaver soon became entranced by the history of nursing after leafing through Pat Donahue’s illustrated history of nursing, Nursing, the Finest Art. After collecting pictures from the Nursing School through her research, she began arranging them into a chronological timeline. It was then that the mural began to take shape.

“I dreamed [the mural] up based on pieces of paper lined up on a tabletop,” Shaver said.

Two years later, Shaver stood in Fagin Hall alongside her mural in front of a group of applauding alumni.

“You have no idea what a gift it is to connect my study of art with my career in nursing,” Shaver said.

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