Sister Mary Olivia Gowan

Sister Mary Olivia helped found Catholic University’s School of Nursing Education.  As a child, Sister Olivia had an interest in illnesses, and nursed sick neighbors and family members.  She obtained her degree in nursing before she became a sister of St. Benedict in Duluth.  While attending Columbia University Teachers College, Sister Olivia met several nursing leaders that shared her concerns for nursing education.  The Sisters College attempted to form a nursing program, however, the courses failed to meet sufficient requirements. 

Monsignor James H. Ryan, who resumed the rectorship of Catholic University in 1928, helped establish the university’s School of Nursing Education.  Despite the many failed attempts to form the nursing program, Monsignor Ryan made sure to send a statue for the establishment of the establishment of the School of Nursing Education before his departure.  It was approved by the Sacred Congregation of Seminaries and Universities in Rome.

In 1935, Sister Olivia was appointed to be the Dean of the School of Nursing Education.

She retired in 1958, but continued to be active within her field.  In 1967, with the assistance of Sister Rita Marie Bergeron, Sister Olivia had a book published about the history of the School of Nursing Education at Catholic University.  The book was entitled, The Development of Professional Nursing at the Catholic University of America, 1932-1958.

Sister Mary Olivia Gowan died in 1977.  Gowan Hall, which was built in her honor, is the home of the School of Nursing and Biology.          

Further Information:

McCarthy, Rosemary T., and Roche, Joan M.. Sister Olivia Gowan: Founder of the School of Nursing.

Author: Tiffany Malig

Date:  17 Nov. 2002