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Nursing Week Celebration - 115 Years Since the Opening of St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing

Unveiling of St. Joseph's School of Nursing commemorative artwork
Unveiling of St. Joseph's School of
Nursing commemorative artwork

Date: 2019-05-08

Tracy Buckler, President & CEO of St. Joseph’s Care Group, honoured nurses past and present through the re-unveiling of St. Joseph’s School of Nursing crest and commemorative artwork. More than 40 graduates were present for the event, including Norma Randa Vescio (Class of 1948), one of four Randa sisters to graduate from the School.

St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing opened its doors 115 years ago, meeting the unmet need for more nurses to provide care to the people of Northwestern Ontario. Located at St. Joseph’s Hospital, the School saw the graduation of 845 nurses before being absorbed into the Lakehead Regional School of Nursing.

The crest was designed by a nursing student and was locally crafted in terrazzo, and it became a symbol of the School of Nursing. Following the amalgamation of the nursing schools, the site became home to the Sister Margaret Smith Centre, and the crest was adopted by many as a symbol of the journey to recovery. When the building was demolished to make space for the new East Wing, the crest was preserved and now has a new home as part of the Main Entrance to St. Joseph’s Hospital. Jerry Della Mattia, the craftsman who built the terrazzo crest, was in attendance and was thrilled to see his work looking as beautiful as the day it was originally installed.

For the next six months, the public can learn more by visiting a display covering some key highlights from St. Joseph’s Care Group’s 135 Years in service to the people of Northwestern Ontario. This display was created in partnership with the Thunder Bay Museum, and can be seen in the Main Hallway of St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Unveiling of St. Joseph's School of Nursing commemorative artwork
Unveiling of St. Joseph's School of
Nursing commemorative artwork
Quotes

“We were delighted to welcome past graduates of St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing to St. Joseph's Hospital to celebrate our shared legacy during Nursing Week. St. Joseph's Care Group has a remarkable history that began with the arrival of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie 135 years ago, and to this day, we are honoured to continue their mission of meeting the unmet needs of our community. Although we've changed and grown over the years, we have stayed true to the tradition set forth by the Sisters so many years ago.” Tracy Buckler, President & CEO

“It’s not just a job. Nursing is about the quality of care, and about compassion and concern. It’s direct and hands-on.” Doris Rossi, a 1965 graduate of St. Joseph’s School of Nursing and event attendee.

For more information, please contact:

St. Joseph’s Care Group Communications, Engagement & Client Relations
Media Line: (807) 768-4455
Email: communications@tbh.net

Backgrounder - St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing
St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae
St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae

St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing (originally known as St. Joseph's Training School) was established in 1904. The students lived in a portion of St. Joseph’s Hospital, and the first class of six students graduated in 1907.

As St. Joseph’s Hospital expanded, so did the nursing school enrollment and the need for a larger residence was established. In 1928, the Neelin home was purchased and converted into the first Nurses’ Residence. Demand continued to grow and in 1955, St. Joseph’s opened a new Nurses’ Residence and School of Nursing. The new building could accommodate 108 students and provided a home-like space for living and classrooms for learning. The school of nursing featured 78 single and 15 double rooms as well as lecture rooms, laboratories, gymnasium and auditorium, library and lounges. It was a student’s home away from home.

The heart of the building was the crest of St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing embedded in the main entrance to the building. The crest was designed by student Miss Dorothy Santucci (class of 1954) at the request of Sister Patricia (Margaret Smith). After graduation, Dorothy worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Her artistic talents were visible throughout the walls of the pediatric floor - making the unit more friendly to the children who were inpatients.

Jerry Della Mattia a young terrazzo and tile specialist built the crest in his father’s basement workshop. Jerry contributed to many projects at St. Joseph’s Care Group sites over the years, but the crest is undoubtedly his masterpiece.

In 1968, through the efforts of a joint Planning Committee comprised of representatives from St. Joseph’s General Hospital, Port Arthur General Hospital, McKellar General Hospital and Lakehead University, the Lakehead Regional School of Nursing was opened, resulting in the phasing out of the individual hospital-based nursing schools. The last class from St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing graduated in 1970. Over the nursing school's 66 years, 845 students graduated.

After the school’s closure, the building functioned as an ancillary space that housed clinics and other associated services. In 1972, the Smith Alcohol and Drug Abuse Clinic (later renamed the Sister Margaret Smith Centre) relocated from the hospital to the former school. A new modern and accessible Sister Margaret Smith Centre opened on Lillie Street in 2009.

St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing Crest - New home as part of the Main Entrance to St. Joseph's Hospital
St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing Crest

The Nursing School building had come to its end of life and the land was ear marked for the East Wing Expansion of St. Joseph’s Hospital for the Mental Health Rehabilitation Program. Before demolition started in early 2012, St. Joseph’s Care Group hosted gatherings for nursing alumnae, Sister Margaret Smith Centre past clients and employees to visit the building one last time.

St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing crest holds a special place in the hearts of many Nursing alumnae, Sister Margaret Smith Centre staff, and past clients. To former clients of the Sister Margaret Smith Centre, the crest was symbolic of their journey to recovery from addiction.

Preserving the crest was an easy decision. How to safety remove it became the next challenge. Weighing approximately 700 kg, the crest was successfully removed and stored until it was inlaid with the new terrazzo at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The crest now holds a permanent place of honour in the new Main Entrance to St. Joseph’s Hospital, a welcoming symbol and lasting tribute to the history of St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing. In 2019, an commemorative art installation explaining the history of St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing was installed adjacent to the crest.

Embedded in the Crest:

Quod Minimus Mihi Fecisti
Matthew 25:40 “Whatever you do to unto others, you do unto Me.”

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