Texarkana College Honors the Late Dr. Shirley Finn, RN, for Her Vision, Civic Leadership, and Nurse Education Legacy

photo mural
photo mural

A mural adorns the entrance to the Dr. Shirley Finn, RN, Nursing Skills Lab

On Wednesday, October 13, 2021, Texarkana College honored the memory and legacy of the late Dr. Shirley Finn, RN, former nursing faculty member, director, and division chair of TC’s Health Occupations Division, at a tribute ceremony held on campus and attended by close friends and Finn family members. As part of the ceremony, Texarkana, Texas, Mayor Bob Bruggeman proclaimed October 13, 2021, as Dr. Shirley Finn, RN, Day in Texarkana. TC President Dr. Jason Smith said the event was held to honor the many milestones accomplished by Dr. Finn throughout her lifetime including her activism in civil rights, her role as a leader within the community, and her advancement of the nursing profession.

“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 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.”

Smith said TC’s nursing program flourished under her direction.

“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.”

The Texarkana community also benefitted from her legendary leadership and vision.

“Shirley and her husband, Edwin Finn, a Texarkana native, raised their son, Michael, in our community and were active members in their church, St. James Episcopal Church, and on several civic boards that provided support for underserved populations,” said Smith. “Another first for our community was Dr. Finn’s service as the first black female to serve on Christus St. Michael Health System’s Board of Directors, opening up doors of opportunity for minority nurses. Dr. Finn lived and worked by example, never asking anyone to put forth more effort than she was willing to herself.”

Other notable honors for Dr. Finn included local recognition by the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce which presented her with the prestigious Palmer Award and the annual Trailblazer Award established in her honor by the Texarkana chapter of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). On the state and national level, the Texas Nurses Foundation posthumously recognized Dr. Finn as a Leader and Legend of Texas Nursing, and Dr. Finn’s national Greek-letter sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, named her as an AKA Pioneering Member.

memorial and tree

The Dr. Shirley Finn memorial tree is located outside the Health Sciences Center.

Smith said the dedication of several legacy tributes in Dr. Shirley Finn’s memory were presented to the Finn family during the ceremony.

“We are pleased to dedicate the nursing skills lab located in the Patterson Health Sciences Building to the memory and legacy of Dr. Shirley Finn, RN, said Smith. “The lab serves as the primary learning environment where nursing students learn and practice life-saving skills. We felt like this lab represents the heart of our program, a fitting dedication to Dr. Finn’s legacy. In addition, we have installed a beautiful mural depicting her lifetime accomplishments located outside the entrance to the lab. We also are happy to announce the advancement of the endowed Dr. Shirley Finn, RN, memorial scholarship through the TC Foundation which will serve as TC’s most prestigious nursing scholarship for vocational or associate degree nursing students. An honor cord will be awarded to recipients of the scholarship upon graduation. A memorial tree was also planted on the west side of the Health Sciences building as a symbol of her service to the college and her legacy as TC’s 2002 Distinguished Faculty Honoree.”

For more information and to view the recorded live stream of the event and the Dr. Shirley Finn, RN, online gallery, go to www.texarkanacollege.edu/dr-shirley-finn-legacy. To make a donation to the Dr. Shirley Finn, RN, Memorial Scholarship fund, please contact TC Foundation’s Executive Director, Katie Andrus, or go to https://www.texarkanacollege.edu/foundation/.