Virginia C. Conley, 79, nursing educator

March 11, 1996|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Virginia C. Conley, retired dean of nursing at Catholic University and an internationally recognized leader in developing graduate programs in nursing, died of cancer Feb. 26 at the Collington Life Care Community near Bowie. She was 79.

Born in Baltimore in 1916, Dr. Conley earned her bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Maryland in 1940. She later taught at Maryland, where she also earned her master's degree in nursing education in 1952 and a doctorate in education in 1967.

"She was a nationally recognized educator and a leader in graduate education in nursing," said her brother, Dr. C. Lockard Conley of Baltimore, retired professor of medicine and former head of the hematology department at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Her resource book, "Curriculum and Instruction in Nursing," was widely used for many years in the United States and abroad. She also wrote many articles on nursing and nursing education.

Her specialty was curriculum development, and she was a consultant to several nursing schools.

Between 1940 and 1950, Dr. Conley rose from staff nurse to head nurse to supervisor of pediatric nursing at the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore. From 1950 to 1964, she served on the faculty at the University of Maryland, where she assisted in the transition to a college-degree program in nursing.

She also was program officer for a joint project with the Army that became the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing (WRAIN). In that degree program through the University of Maryland, nurses became officers in the Army Nurse Corps.

"At the time, there were very few degree programs -- only three-year nursing programs," said Iladene Filer, a retired colonel and Army nurse. A longtime friend and associate, Colonel Filer was a faculty member while Dr. Conley was dean at Catholic University.

"Until the WRAIN program, only a few programs allowed students to go to the college of their choice [and] there was the old idea that courses couldn't be transferred," Colonel Filer said. "It changed nursing. It was a great influence."

In 1967, Dr. Conley joined Catholic University as a curriculum consultant and associate professor. She became a full professor in 1973 and was dean of the school of nursing. She developed a doctoral program in nursing before retiring in 1981 as professor emeritus.

While at Catholic University in 1976, she answered a request by the shah of Iran, the late Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and took a contingent of faculty to Tehran to develop a master's program in nursing at the Imperial Medical College of Iran.

"While the shah was still in charge and trying to Americanize the country, she made a number of trips there," her brother recalled.

When the shah was overthrown in 1979, Ms. Filer said, many of their associates suffered.

"Toward the end, our people could not go out," she said. "Some of the people [at the Imperial Medical College] who were still there were executed." Dr. Conley was a member of the National League for Nursing (and a past president of its Maryland chapter), the American Nurses Association and St. Matthew's Methodist Church in Bowie.

She moved to Collington about seven years ago after living some 25 years in the same house in Bowie. She enjoyed growing roses, needlepoint and playing the piano.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Collington Life Care Community, 10450 Lottsford Road in Mitchellville. Memorial contributions may be made to the center's Fellowship Fund.

In addition to her brother, Dr. Conley is survived by two nieces and two great-nieces.

Pub Date: 3/11/96

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