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Posted: 12/7/2009

Gertrude Hodges '59, the first African American to graduate from the Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School for Nurses, is sharing her history and stories with today's young black nurses. 

On October 28, Hodges spoke at a Black Student Nurses Association (BSNA) mixer, telling approximately 20 students, faculty, and staff at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing about her experiences as a student and the future she sees for nurses.     

In high school, Hodges ignored the advice of a guidance counselor, who questioned whether the nursing profession was even open to blacks, and sent a letter inquiring whether the Hopkins accepted "colored" nursing students.  "I didn't care what anybody said," says Hodges.  "I knew I wanted to be a nurse since I was four years old."  

After graduating in 1959, she went on to earn her master's degree, and then began to teach nurses.  She spent decades inspiring students at Baltimore City Community College -- many from disadvantaged backgrounds -- to work hard and achieve academic degrees in nursing.  For these and other accomplishments, she was recently presented with a 2009 Johns Hopkins University Distinguished Alumna Award.

In thanks for her presentation, the BSNA gave Hodges a plaque inscribed with a quote from Harriet Tubman:  "Every great dream begins with a dreamer."  Hodges, the dreamer, was the little girl who wanted to be a nurse.  Now she is the woman who has spent more than 40 years in the field, loving her career choice. 

"I have never regretted going into nursing," she says.