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A Life of Compassion and Competence is Honored


February 2011 | by Jane Kettering

It was the middle of the night when a supervisor at Davenport's Mercy Hospital called Sister Mary Brigid Condon about one of her nursing students. The young "Mercy Nurse" had not completed a minor task prior to leaving the hospital, and the supervisor was upset. "Send her back over," she demanded. But Condon was unfazed. "She needs her rest," she replied. The matter was closed.

That's what the long time director of St. Ambrose's Nursing Program was like, says the current director, Dolores Hilden. "Sister Brigid was very compassionate and believed in using one's authority reasonably."

Condon's death at age 93 this past summer marked the loss of a trailblazer in nursing education throughout Iowa. Teaching and directing nursing at both St. Ambrose and Marycrest College from 1954-73 came within the span of a 50-year career that included seven years as vice president of the Iowa Hospital Association and an appointment by Iowa's governor to the State Board of Nursing.

With such a legacy, it is no surprise that several former students have established an endowed scholarship at Ambrose in Condon's name.

"We were very fond of Sister Brigid," says Ann Keeven, a member of St. Ambrose's nursing class of 1959. "She was very good to us, very fair, and we always knew where we stood with her. By her example she taught us compassion, something we took with us out into our practice."

When fully funded, the scholarship will provide an annual award of approximately $2,500 to a deserving nursing student, something that would have pleased Condon, Keeven says. The university also honored Condon by dedicating the computer lab in the Center for Health Sciences Education in her name. In the lab, nursing students prepare for the state licensure exam through trial tests.

Although such technology was not around during Condon's tenure, its use in nursing education today would have tickled her, Hilden says. "She was a very progressive woman and would be the first to push for whatever one needs to be ready, to be good."

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