By Nathalie Wheaton
In 1972, Christman became the first dean of the Rush University College of Nursing and vice president for nursing affairs at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center. With strong administrative support, he moved to implement all the components for his plan for nursing, which would come to be known as the Rush Model for Nursing.
Christman helped establish the National Male Nurse Association in 1974, which became the American Assembly for Men in Nursing in 1981. He was a strong supporter for the recruitment of male nurses, believing that diversity could make the nursing profession stronger. A gift from the John L. and Helen Kellogg Foundation in 1979 funded at Rush the first National Center for Excellence in Nursing in the United States. Christman retired from Rush in 1987.
In 2004, Christman was inducted into the American Nurses Association’s Hall of Fame. In 2007, the American Nurses Association established the Luther Christman Award. The American Assembly for Men in Nursing began awarding its own Luther Christman Award in 1975 to people who have helped further the cause of men in nursing.
Christman graduated from the Pennsylvania Hospital School of Nursing for Men in 1939, and married nurse Dorothy Black (Dorothy Christman) the same year. He went on to earn a baccalaureate degree from Temple University, 1948, an Ed.M. in clinical psychology from the Philadelphia Psychoanalytic Institute, and his Ph.D. in Sociology and Anthropology from Michigan State University.
He served as director of nursing at Yankton State Hospital in South Dakota and advisor for the Michigan Department of Mental Health in the 1950s. In the 1960s, he was an associate professor in psychiatric nursing at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, then dean of the nursing school and director of nursing at Vanderbilt University. There, he worked to rebuild the school, acquiring substantial funding, developing nursing as an applied science and introducing the practitioner-teacher model.
Although I never had the chance to meet Luther Christman, I had the pleasure of processing his collection in the Rush Archives a few years ago. A strange thing happens when you go through a person’s papers, their photographs, memos, letters, and other documents. You’re touching what they touched, reading what they read and wrote, and you end up feeling a connection to your subject that you probably don’t get from a simple biography.
Only yesterday, I was telling someone about Christman’s work at Rush, the barriers he’d faced as a male nurse, and the advancements he’d made in nursing education and the nursing profession. I had such admiration for him and loved to share his story with others. So, it’s with great sadness I learned of his passing today.
We would love to hear your own stories on Luther Christman. Please feel free to contact the Rush Archives.
Nathalie Wheaton, MSLS, is assistant archivist for the Rush University Medical Center Archives. Do you have a question about Rush’s history? Contact the Rush Archives at (312) 942-7214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit us at http://www.lib.rush.edu/archives.
The Luther P. Christman Papers in the Rush Archives include correspondence; articles, papers, and speeches by Christman; records related to Christman’s time as dean of the nursing schools at Vanderbilt University and Rush University; and material related to nursing and health care conferences and awards; and photographs. The Rush Archives also houses related collections, including video and audio of interviews with Christman, the American Assembly for Men in Nursing Records, and the records of the Rush University College of Nursing.