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Texarkana College recognizes impact of Dr. Shirley Finn on nursing program

Mural dedicated to Dr. Shirley Finn.
Mural dedicated to Dr. Shirley Finn.(Texarkana College)
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 3:51 PM CDT
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TEXARKANA, Texas (KSLA) - On Wednesday, Oct. 13, Texarkana city leaders gave special recognition for the woman who was the face of the Texarkana College nursing program for 20 years. They say they hope her story will inspire others.

Texarkana College’s nursing program started back in 1956. It has become one of the best in the state of Texas. College leaders say Dr. Shirley Finn was responsible for the success of the program. She passed in 2012, but they say her name will live on.

“From a young age, Shirley was a visionary leader who advocated for the rights of women and minorities during a time when it was difficult to break through barriers,” said Texarkana College President Jason Smith. “She was the first African American nurse to work in Wadley Hospital’s operating room, and the first minority female hired as a faculty member at Texarkana College in 1966. During her tenure, Shirley excelled as an instructor by establishing high academic and professional expectations for students. In 1975, TC President Dr. Carl Nelson promoted Shirley to Director of the TC School of Nursing, and Chair of TC’s Health Occupations Division. This was the first time in the history of the college that a female, or a minority, served as a member of TC’s leadership team.”

The college paid tribute to Finn by dedicating the Nursing Skill Lab in her honor. A mural on the second floor of the Health Science building was also unveiled, highlighting her accomplishments.

In 1966, Finn became the first African American female instructor at the college, and she became the director of the nursing program between 1975-1995.

“During her tenure, TC’s Vocational Nursing and Associate Degree Nursing students earned high scores on licensure exams and were able to help fulfill our region’s workforce need for skilled nurses that led to the expansion of area hospitals and clinics,” said Smith. “Shirley wrote grants totaling more than $1 million for expansion of TC nursing programs and to assist faculty members with tuition for continuing education and advanced degrees. She was always advocating for the advancement of education, both for students and for faculty.”

Finn’s son, Michael Finn, along with her husband Edwin Finn, were present for the ceremony. They say they hope today’s dedication will inspire others to succeed.

“Speaking for my father and my family, we are proud to bring my mama back home,” said Michael Finn.

Those who knew Finn further described her as a civil rights leader in the community.

“When people like her paved the way for women like us, it makes you want to go harder. Makes you want to strive harder,” said nursing student Rekesha Rayfield.

As part of the ceremony, Mayor Bob Bruggeman proclaimed Oct. 13 as Dr. Shirley Finn Day in Texarkana.

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