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In Memoriam: Margretta Styles

Posted on Tuesday, December 06, 2005 · Volume: XXXVIII · Issue: 48

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An acknowledged great nursing leader, Margretta Madden Styles, Ed.D., R.N., founding dean of the School of Nursing and a distinguished contributor to nursing education for more than three decades, died Nov. 20 in Clearwater, Fla. She was 75.

Known as “Gretta” to her colleagues, Dr. Styles was a graduate of the University of Florida and wife of an Episcopal priest. She distinguished herself in her early career, and by the late 1960s was ready to accept the challenge of developing the School of Nursing in San Antonio. She later would serve as dean for nursing schools at Wayne State University and the University of California, San Francisco, as well.

“In addition to the tremendous foundation she laid for our school, she was one of the great leaders in nursing, known nationally and internationally,” said Patty L. Hawken, Ph.D., R.N., who followed Dr. Styles as dean in 1974 and is dean emeritus of the School of Nursing. “Her death is a tremendous loss for the profession and personally.”

Dr. Styles designed the School of Nursing building and started the educational programs. “When I came here, the building was just about finished,” Dr. Hawken said. “Her ideas about the design and programs were fantastic.”

The School of Nursing held its first classes in 1969. Dr. Styles served as dean until 1973, when she left to become dean of the College of Nursing at Wayne State. Dr. Dorothy Corona was interim dean until Dr. Hawken’s arrival.

After Wayne State, Dr. Styles was director of undergraduate programs at Duke University. Her final career stop was UCSF, where she was dean from 1977 until 1987.

But she was far from finished with the profession.

In 1993, more than 6,500 nurses went to Madrid, Spain, for the 20th International Council of Nurses (ICN) conference where Dr. Styles became ICN president. She also served as president of the American Nursing Association, and was involved in every other nursing organization nationally and internationally.

She returned to San Antonio in 1999 to be the invited commencement speaker for the School of Nursing.

“One thing I always admired was her ability to speak so fluently and so articulately about nursing,” Dr. Hawken said. “I’ve heard many speeches in my life, but when Gretta spoke you could hear a pin drop because she was so thoughtful and passionate about nursing.”

Ruth Stewart, R.N., retired associate professor of nursing, said Dr. Styles “did so much in so many areas, in terms of credentialing for nursing and developing standards for nursing education. Her contributions will go down forever in nursing history.”

Indeed, Dr. Styles was the architect of the first comprehensive study of nursing credentialing in the 1970s, according to the Web site of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Dr. Styles also had a wonderful sense of humor, Stewart said. “I think so often about the things we laughed about together from the days we first met, when she was appointed as dean here, when there was no school built, and I was the first person hired to do public health nursing.”

At the most recent annual meeting of the Fellows of the American Academy of Nurses, when it was clear that Dr. Styles was in very poor health, the current president asked the members in attendance to indicate which of them had been personally touched by this great nursing leader. More than half of the almost 400 fellows attending the meeting raised their hands, showing the clear nationwide influence Dr. Styles had exerted.

Dr. Styles was a low-key rather than fiery individual, friends said. “She did not need to be fiery to get her points and agendas through,” Stewart said. “But she was an iconoclast.”

Thanks to the excellent start provided by this great leader, and to the work of outstanding leaders including present Dean Robin Froman, Ph.D., R.N., the School of Nursing today is one of the most highly regarded in the U.S.

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