Nursing Program Founder Evelyn Cohelan Dies

Posted: May 9, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Denise St. Ours

Evelyn Cohelan, professor emerita of nursing and first chair of Mason’s Department of Nursing — the nucleus of what is now the School of Nursing in the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) — died April 28 of heart failure. She was 90.

Cohelan was recruited to Mason in 1973 to establish the university’s nursing program. During her tenure, the BSN and MSN programs were launched in 1974 and 1978, respectively, and enrollment grew from 96 students to 760.

Evelyn Cohelan
Evelyn Cohelan (2006)

After her retirement from Mason in 1981, her dedication to the nursing program remained strong and led to her initiating an endowed Faculty Leadership Award in the School of Nursing in 1999. The award annually recognizes a junior nursing faculty member who demonstrates educational leadership.

According to CHHS Dean Shirley Travis, those who worked with Cohelan during the program’s formative years described her as a “great tree” of support and shelter as she went about creating what has become the largest baccalaureate nursing program in Virginia. Today the program graduates approximately 200 new entry-level nurses each year, 85 master’s prepared nurses, and 10 doctoral graduates.

“Dr. Cohelan was a pioneer nurse educator who worked with colleagues from around the country to define the standards for a baccalaureate nursing education and to bring those standards to George Mason University,” says Travis. “She worked tirelessly and with great dignity, charm and caring. She laid a path that is now well traveled by the thousands of nursing students who have graduated from Mason.”

Cohelan held a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing from the University of California–Berkeley, and a PhD from the University of California–San Francisco. Before coming to Mason, she was an associate dean of graduate studies at the University of Maryland. At the time of her death, Cohelan resided in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Cohelan’s family asks that memorial contributions be sent to the George Mason University Foundation in support of the Evelyn E. Cohelan Faculty Leadership Award in Nursing.

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