NMSU honors the legacy of nurses
The Las Cruces Bulletin
This year, May 6-12 comprises National Nursing Week, but New Mexico State University has found a way to stretch the stories and appreciation of nursing work into a permanent installment through the Smith Family Nursing Legacy Wall.
Carved into a birch tree’s measure of years, the messages vary but the theme is constant. All of the plaques represent nurses and the contributions they have made to their profession and community.
“In memory of an amazing human being whose healing forever touched many lives and will continue to do so through the work of her students,” reads one.
“The patient always comes first,” announces another in all capital letters.
Pictures — some new, some smiles softened through the sepia glow of time — are embedded in many of the plaques. Families are present as a list of names and faces sharing a circle, or as two or more connected plaques.
The Smith Family Nursing Legacy Wall is borne out of another initiative — the Nursing History of Excellence wall.
“We sought to create this 3-D interactive wall where it preserves the history of the school of nursing,” said Jennifer Cervantes, assistant dean for advancement in NMSU’s College of Health and Social Services.
“As we were finishing up that project, we thought it felt so limited in so many ways and we had a really hard time trying to decide who to include on that wall — so many nurses made such incredible contributions to our community.”
The program decided to carry the theme into the new initiative, which would allow the college to recognize the work and lives of nurses past and present.
“It is a way to honor nurses, their contributions and their stories,” Cervantes said. “It really helped expand our storytelling efforts.”
History is what drew the artist, NMSU art professor Gatis Cirulis, to the project. His family stories have given him an appreciation for nursing and history — one of his great-aunts was a high-ranking surgeon nurse in Latvia during World War II.
“(The project) seemed on some level close to home and some level distant,” Cirulis said.
“I’m just trying to reflect upon what I receive and give the full respect as much as possible.”
The round birchwood plaques can be purchased for $500 with an engraving, or for $1,000 with an engraving and photo.
The legacy of the nurses honored helps benefit the nurses of the future.
“All the proceeds go into a student travel fund which will allow our undergraduate nursing students to attend professional development conferences,” Cervantes said.
“They often don’t get that opportunity to participate in that kind of networking. So it’s really a win-win.”
The first part of the initiative kicked off with the Nightingale Circle, which acknowledges the support of 20 individuals from the community and from NMSU, including President Carruthers, whose mother and daughter are nurses.
“And they were really the first part of the wall and now … we’re moving into the second phase of the wall, opening it up to the public for those who want to honor a nurse or nurses,” Cervantes said.
While the plaques may honor nurses who have passed on, the wall is not only a memorial. Neither do the nurses honored on the wall have to be NMSU alums.
“We really just want to highlight and honor the legacy of nurses everywhere,” Cervantes said.
The Nursing Legacy Wall is on the first floor of the College of Health and Social Services building, just around the corner from the Nursing History of Excellence Wall in the lobby.
“We have limited space, and once the plaques are sold, that’s it,” Cervantes said. “There’s really no more wall space in the college.”
Cervantes said she expects the wall to fill up within the next eight months to a year, with an estimate of 100 plaques total.
SEE NURSES, PAGE 23
The Smith Family Nursing Legacy Wall honors the contribution of nurses both past and present with birchwood plaques that are part of a permanent installment in New Mexico State University’s College of Health and Social Services.
LAS CRUCES BULLETIN PHOTO BY MARISSA BOND
By Marissa Bond