Yolanda Neal officially appointed second president of Watts College of Nursing
DURHAM, N.C. – Longtime nurse and nurse educator Yolanda Neal was officially appointed the second president of Watts College of Nursing during a Dec. 17 inauguration ceremony.
Neal, who holds a doctorate in nursing practice, had been part of the staff and faculty at Watts School of Nursing, the oldest nursing program in North Carolina, since 2014. She served as Watts’ Associate Chief Executive for Nursing Education before her appointment as interim president in June 2021 and as president in October 2021.
Neal helped transition Watts School of Nursing into the Watts College of Nursing, when the school’s diploma program was phased into a college that offers the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. In addition to the inauguration, two graduation ceremonies were also held on Dec. 17 for students in the final nursing diploma program cohort as well as for the first BSN graduating class.
“As Watts transitions into the College, we have an amazing opportunity to utilize the lessons learned from 126 years of rich history and use it as a foundation for learning in this current time and beyond,” Neal said during her ceremony remarks. “As we continue to deal with the impact of a global pandemic, producing clinically competent nurses is more important now than ever.”
The inauguration ceremony was held at Durham’s N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, a former location for Watts School of Nursing and Watts Hospital that dates to 1909. Now, Watts College is located off Croasdaile Drive in Durham and many of its graduates go on to careers working within affiliate Duke University Health System and beyond.
“Watts’ mission continues to evolve and grow to meet the needs of the students and our communities,” said Eugene Washington, M.D., president and CEO of Duke University Health System. “The first BSN students enrolled in January of 2020. Nobody knew then the challenges and the distressing times that lay ahead, but despite a global pandemic, Watts College of Nursing’s inaugural class will graduate today. Now that’s quite an accomplishment. Dr. Neal has been an instrumental part of their success.”