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Dorothy Tupper Spotlight

Nancy Dzieken stands in front of her Aunt Dorothy Tupper's picture in the UW School of Nursing

Pictured: Nancy Dzieken poses in front of her Aunt Dorothy Tupper's picture
outside the administrative offices in the University of Wyoming
Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing.


Continuing a Legacy...and bringing a picture to life

Walking through the hall outside the administrative nursing suite on the 3rd floor of the Health Sciences Center, visitors encounter several pictures of nursing deans and special faculty who were instrumental in building a great nursing program from the beginning - as early as 1951, to be exact. One of those pictures that always elicits generous praise from those who knew the person in the photo is that of Dorothy Tupper. Tupper was professor and for a time dean during the years 1952-1984 at the University of Wyoming School of Nursing. She died in 1994.

This fall Tupper's niece, Nancy Dzieken of Oregon [pictured], visited campus to attend the school's annual Nightingale Ceremony, where students are introduced to the profession of nursing. Scholarship/award donors are invited to the event so that the school can publicly recognize them and so that donors and students can meet one another. Not surprisingly, Dzieken contributes to the Dorothy Tupper Nursing Scholarship. Dzieken is a nurse herself, and also graduated from the University of Wyoming School of Nursing.

In addition to the scholarship given in Tupper's name (annually given to a sophomore student interested in nursing), there is also an award given in her name to a graduating senior. Dzieken brought with her to Wyoming an old school newsletter announcing the establishing of that same "Dorothy Tupper Award Fund" that continues on today. Faculty at the school established the award in order to recognize the significance of the roles undertaken in the school by Tupper. They worked with "Dot" (their nickname for her) prior to her death to determine the award criteria. Dot identified that she wanted the award to be given to the graduate who best demonstrated caring, compassion, and an ability to communicate with patients.

Also in the newsletter was an article titled, "Dorothy Tupper on Dorothy Tupper."  We want to bring a portion of that enjoyable, candid article to you below...


Dorothy Tupper on Dorothy Tupper

from UW School of Nursing Alumni Newsletter, likely to have been published around 1992.

Forcing myself to examine and summarize seventy plus years of life was difficult for me. While I was proud of some accomplishments, I felt immodest in describing these, and I was reluctant to look at and then share the areas about which I was least proud.

Shortly after I enrolled in nursing, my parents and sister moved from the homestead in Wyoming to Edgemont, South Dakota and later to Igloo, South Dakota. Igloo, by the way, was not named for the dwellings of the inhabitants, but for the shape of the partly buried masonry structures used to store ammunition in World War II.

I went to nursing school at St. Catherine's Hospital School of Nursing in Omaha and graduated in 1943. After graduation from St. Catherine's I did private duty in Omaha long enough to earn railway fare to South Dakota. While waiting to join the Army in the fall of 1944, I worked as a night nurse at the army station hospital in Igloo. I shudder now when I remember the variety of patients we had on one unit: mothers and newborns as well as children and adults with a variety of problems. As a new graduate, I felt confident about providing care. No doubt there were complications, some of which might have been due to my inexperience, but I was blissfully unaware.

In January of 1945 I joined the Army Nurse Corps.

Following the "who to salute when" classes in Colorado Springs, I was assigned briefly to Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver. Night duty again. (Why were the inexperienced nurses so often assigned to the hours when there was the least supervision and help available?) In April we set off on a slow boat for Manila. Service in the Philippines was memorable and long enough for me to decide that I didn't have the characteristics essential for a successful career in the military. The army apparently shared my evaluation, as I was inducted into the service as a second lieutenant and honorably discharged some fourteen months later at the same rank.

Following brief employment at a V.A. Hospital in Ft. Bayard, New Mexico, I returned to Wyoming and enrolled at the University of Wyoming. I earned a BS degree in zoology in 1948. I worked part-time as a staff nurse while completing the degree in zoology.

It is now 1948, I am twenty-seven years old and still uncertain about what field of nursing I want to pursue. While working at the V.A. Hospital in Hot Springs, South Dakota, I did some staff development and decided I might like teaching. This required some preparation in how to teach. I completed yet another bachelor's degree at the University of Minnesota with a major in nursing education.

The University of Wyoming had been discussing a nursing program for several years, and I applied there in the fall of 1951. When I came to Laramie to interview, I learned that students had been admitted to the program in September and we were taking a course in history of nursing taught by Gertrude Gould in addition to required courses in other academic units. They were following a four year academic curriculum developed by Henrietta Loughrin, who was Dean of Nursing at the University of Colorado. Amelia Leino was finally appointed Dean in November 1951 and I officially joined the faculty the following March (1952) when the first clinical nursing course was offered. I started working for the School in January 1952 helping to organize courses, but the official appointment was not until March. The University was on a quarter system a t that time, so a new semester started in March.

In March 1955 I took time off and completed a master's degree at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York, because by then I knew that I really wanted to teach. Then I returned to the University of Wyoming to teach. In 1968 I was appointed as the Acting Dean of the School of Nursing and was in an Acting position for two years. Then I was appointed as Dean (no longer acting) for three more years. A five year stint as Dean of the School convinced me that my aptitudes and interests were not in administration. Working directly with students and patients was rewarding for me, and I look back on more than thirty years of teaching with satisfaction. I retired from the University in 1984.


Continuing the Legacy

If you would like to be part of continuing the legacy of Dorothy Tupper by supporting the scholarship or award in her name, feel free to contact Angela Ver Ploeg at the UW Foundation, (307) 766-1939 or


article posted 10/18/2016


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