nursing schoolWhen attempting to put into words what Martha N. Hill, PhD, RN, FAAN, has meant to the top-ranked Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, it’s probably wisest to stick with hers: “Onward.”

The School of Nursing (JHUSON) began a fond farewell to its tremendously influential dean at a Celebration in the Garden, a spirited affair in the courtyard behind the School’s Anne M. Pinkard building. Tributes flowed like wine on the beautiful spring evening, none more glowing than that of Walter “Wally” D. Pinkard, Jr., Johns Hopkins University Trustee Emeritus and former Vice Chairman of the Board, who has chaired the School of Nursing National Advisory Board during the dean’s entire tenure. Though he’s mingled among the greatest minds at the university and elsewhere, Pinkard said, ”I’ve never met a leader like Martha Hill.” It was a sentiment echoed again and again.

Then, of course, it was time for presents. But what do you give to the dean who has (given you) everything?

Led to the center of the courtyard, Hill was instructed to look up as a blue curtain fell. There it was, a wrought iron archway added in secret atop brick columns; a structure that students will pass beneath every day on the way to and from classes and which tells them, simply but beautifully: Onward.

Attendees also got a glimpse of Hill’s official portrait by photographer Bruce Bennett (shown), later unveiled as part of the Biennial Meeting and Reunion at Johns Hopkins Hospital as the latest member of a venerated group. There was also a caricature of the dean aboard a rocket ship soaring—where else?—Onward.

Hill, clearly moved by the tributes, thanked the faculty, students, staff, family, and friends, saying her time as dean “has just gone from pleasure to pleasure, from opportunity to opportunity.”

“Just looking around this room, looking at these diverse classes of students, and the talented faculty and staff, to be able to be a part of this has been an extraordinary adventure.”

Hill is not leaving JHUSON, but after a break will return to the school’s faculty and to her research. “I am going to be taking a sabbatical,” she said. “That translates to ‘get out of town and let the new dean have all the oxygen.’ "

Her replacement has yet to be announced, but Hill urged the crowd to welcome and support the new dean.

“We’re on a marvelous trajectory, and I ask all of you to join with me in the commitment to helping the new dean--and all of you--continue to be as successful as you can be. It’s the dean’s job to help gather the resources and allocate them so that everyone can be as good as they can be. So, thank you for the privilege and … Onward!”

Leave a tribute to Dean Martha N. Hill on her tribute page.