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Posted: 8/1/2011

Legend has it that something magical happens when you kiss a frog—but sometimes it takes several attempts to capture that magic.  At Johns Hopkins UniversityKissing the frog School of Nursing (JHUSON), it takes only one smooch with an amphibian and a celebration begins. 

Kissing-the-Frog, the unusual tradition of hugging and kissing the JHUSON courtyard frog sculpture, was started in 1999 by Karin Coyne, PhD, RN.  Coyne, the first Johns Hopkins doctoral nursing student to defend her dissertation, celebrated her accomplishment by embracing and kissing the inanimate four-foot fiddling amphibian.    

As more students completed the Hopkins nursing doctoral program, many followed her lead and began their celebrations of success with a frog smooch.  During the ensuing decade, the numbers of doctoral students doubled and tripled, but the tradition began to wane.  The Fiddling Frog continued his silent serenade by the courtyard fountain.  The shrubbery around the fountain grew and began to invade his mushroom perch. The tradition was forgotten—until June 7, 2011 when the magic returned.   

After successfully defending her doctoral dissertation, “Couple Functioning and Posttraumatic Stress in Soldiers and Spouses,” Lieutenant Colonel Kristal Melvin, NP, U.S. Army Nurse Corps, went to the newly expanded and refurbished courtyard, planted a kiss on the frog’s head, and single-handedly revived the tradition.   “To me the courtyard frog symbolizes the best of Hopkins.  It’s unique, it’s steadfast, and it celebrates the care giving and kindness of nurses.  This was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and to remember—and I’m proud to be part of this tradition.”

The doctoral program directors—Hae-Ra Han, PhD for the PhD program, and Mary Terhaar, DNSc  for the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, are now encouraging others to do the same following the successful defense of a dissertation or presentation of a capstone project.  Dr. Terhaar noted, “This is a whimsical and fun way to celebrate a major accomplishment.  And with 45 DNP and 27 PhD students now enrolled, the frog will enjoy many hugs and kisses in the next few years.”

The Fiddling Frog has held an honored position in the nursing school courtyard since its construction in 1998.  The courtyard—and the Frog—were given to the School by Townsend and Bob Kent in memory of their daughter Louise and to honor the nurses who cared for her while she was a patient in Hopkins’ Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Children’s Center.   In bestowing the gift, Townsend Kent noted, “The kind of care the nurses gave our daughter really comes from within.  Their actions sparked a lifetime commitment in us to all that nursing stands for.  The idea of a courtyard…fits the sense of a child.  Hopefully it will remind the nurses to enjoy the things that come so easily to children.  We want to see the students and faculty taking time to relax, enjoy the air and watch the birds.  Relaxation is the other side, and a very important part, of a nurse’s life.  This gift...will show our gratitude and respect for Hopkins’ nurses and will provide a lasting remembrance of our dearly loved daughter.”

In the recently expanded and refurbished nursing school courtyard the Frog remains a central presence, presiding over the tranquil fountain and bringing magic to those who study and relax there and to those who ask, “When will you kiss the frog?”