Minniear, first executive director of nursing at DUH, dies at 83
Durham, N.C. -- Wilma A. Minniear, professor emeritus of
Duke University School of Nursing and former executive director
of nursing services for Duke Hospital, died April 26, 2005, at
Christian Care Retirement Community, Bluffton, Indiana. She was
In 1964, Minniear joined Duke as an assistant professor of
nursing at Duke University; she became executive director of
nursing services in 1970, serving until her retirement in 1984.
She also was especially influential during the construction of
Duke North Hospital.
"At a crucial time in the history of Duke Hospital, Wilma
Minniear took over the responsibilities as executive director
of nursing services. She took on this challenge with energy,
gentility and dedication. She was a wonderful person, and it
was an honor to have her on the Duke Hospital team," said
William Anlyan, M.D., chancellor emeritus for Duke University
As a mentor to much of Duke Hospital's future administration
and nursing leadership, Minniear is remembered as a tenacious
advocate for patients and nurses, and a strong leader who
commanded respect from all who worked with her.
"She was someone who had 'presence,' the only word I can use
to describe the kind of impact she had on everyone," said Wanda
Bride, R.N., clinical operations director for cardiology at
Duke Hospital. "She taught me to always do what is right, not
what is easy. She taught me to be an advocate for patients and
staff. Last, but not least, she taught me to be proud of what I
do -- nursing."
In a 1984 article published at the time of her retirement,
Minniear described her role at Duke Hospital. "I think of
myself primarily as a facilitator and teacher, a coach and a
counselor. There are so many people here with good ideas. I try
to find them and get them involved. I feel quite privileged to
have been part of such an intellectually stimulating
Kathy Finch, R.N., clinical operations director for
emergency services, points to Minniear as a major influence on
her career. "She instilled confidence in me, and I worked very
hard not to disappoint her. My gift to her is that in some
small way I have tried to find the best in others, to encourage
others, to help in any way I could in the hope that they would
in turn give that gift to the next person, whether a patient,
colleague or friend."
Mary Ann Peter, R.N., Ph.D., a former director of nursing
for Duke Hospital who worked with Minniear for almost 15 years,
said Minniear's dedication to patient care is something that
should be honored and remembered.
"Wilma had certain phrases that everyone would recognize as
her philosophy on patient care. She often spoke of the 'patient
imperative' and the 'continuous, urgent, non-deferrable
business of patient care,'" said Peter. "For her, patient care
was the top priority and she reminded us often that we were
charged with doing for patients what they could not do for
themselves. Her philosophy will live on. No one who knew her
will ever forget her."
Minniear's legacy at Duke is summarized by Duke University
Health System and Duke University Hospital Chief Nursing
Officer Mary Ann Fuchs, M.S.N., R.N. "Wilma was an inspiration
to Duke nurses. Her memory and strength of
mentorship—supporting both education and clinical missions—is
greatly recognized, and will endure forever in Duke history and
at Duke Hospital, through an annual award made by the Friends
of Nursing program. Endowed in 2000, Duke's Wilma Minniear
Award for Excellence in Nursing Mentorship encourages other
nurses to serve as role models in her tradition."
Minniear's distinguished nursing and nursing education
career had begun by enrollment in Ball Hospital School of
Nursing and Ball State University, where she graduated in 1944
with a dual degree in biology and physical education. Although
she sought entry into the military nursing service in World War
II, she was channeled instead to nursing needs of the area and
in 1945 became an instructor at the Ball Hospital School or
Nursing. Subsequently she was supervisor of Medical and
Surgical Nursing for a Detroit Hospital and then earned a
master's degree of science in nursing from Payne Bolton School
of Nursing in Cleveland. She later joined the Payne Bolton
faculty and developed a comprehensive master's degree in
nursing, which remains part of the curriculum today.
In 1995, Minniear moved to Bluffton, Indiana, and became an
active member of the community. She was a member of the First
United Methodist Church, where she served on the finance and
stewardship committees. She was also a volunteer at the
Caylor-Nickel surgical lounge in Bluffton, the community's food
bank, and Helping Hands, a mother's-day-out program sponsored
by her church.
Ms. Minniear was born Feb. 18, 1922, in Huntington, to J.
Harry and Blanche J. Morris Minniear. Survivors include a
brother, David Minniear of Hampton, Va.; five nieces; two
nephews; two great-nieces; and seven great-nephews. She was
preceded in death by a brother, Joseph Minniear.
Services will be held on May 1, 2005, at 2 p.m. at the
Thoma/Rich, Hewitt and Chaney Funeral Home in Bluffton. Burial
will be at Mossburg Cemetery, Wells County. Preferred memorials
are donations to Friends of Nursing, Box 3543, Duke University
Medical Center, Durham, N.C. 27710 or to other charities of the