Rush Symposium Will Honor Luther Christman

A pioneer of the practitioner-teacher model for nursing education, a champion of advanced clinical degrees for nurses and the nation’s first male dean of a school of nursing, Luther Christman, PhD, RN, emeritus dean of Rush University College of Nursing, died June 7, 2011.

Christman was the College of Nursing’s founding dean and the vice president for nursing affairs at then Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center from 1972 until his retirement in 1987. There, he shaped the field of nursing by implementing the Rush Model for Nursing, which included the merging of nursing education and practice, as well as primary nursing as a means to improve patient care.

Christman also helped establish the National Male Nurse Association (now the American Assembly for Men in Nursing), was honored with the first Lifetime Distinguished Achievement Award from Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society and was inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame.

A symposium in honor of Dr. Christman is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 6, at Rush University. Interested participants are asked to RSVP by Oct. 6.

Gifts in Christman’s memory can be directed to the Dorothy and Luther Christman Endowed Scholarship for Nursing at Rush by visiting or contacting Alex Kwak at (312) 942-6112 or

9 thoughts on “Rush Symposium Will Honor Luther Christman

  1. As many appreciate, Luther was far ahead of his time…at least as early as 1981, Luther was a strong proponent of interdisciplinary research; for example, he had arranged for several members of the nursing faculty to have lab space and joint appointments in the physiology and immunology/microbiology departments. This was a visionary move, as it resulted in nursing being able to hit the ground running when the HIV epidemic surfaced.

    I will be forever grateful to Luther for his recognition of the importance of basic sciences to nursing education, practice, and research…and, on a very personal basis, his willingness to give me a chance!

    Jan Zeller

  2. Jane Tarnow

    Dr. Christman was a true visionary. He developed ideas that people believed would never work. He succeeded with all of his projects and way beyond. It truely was a honor to next to him for many years. He gave me opportunities in the international nursing community which I will never forget. He was my mentor and a close friend after he left Rush. I will always be thankful for his direction.
    Jane Tarnow, DNSc, RN

  3. Luther was many things—a visionary, a maverick, a mentor, an international icon—to name just a few. But there was one thing that Luther was not–a micromanager. He had complete confidence and trust in those with whom he worked, especially the small cadre of original practitioner-teachers who were in their early 20s and recently graduated from masters in nursing programs, mostly from clinical nurse specialist programs. When Luther asked us to develop the curriculum for the newly created Rush University College of Nursing, we did it without further instructions or guidance! When he asked us to serve on national committees, give testimony before Congress, assume leadership positions, or travel to the former Soviet Union to speak, we did it without further ado!

    An important component of Luther’s philosophy was that if you were clinically competent, then it was easy to teach (knew the latest information–no lecture preparation needed), do research (knew the right questions to ask), or be a leader (knew the clinical and professional arenas). Because of his hands off approach and strong clinical orientation, we thrived and excelled, going on to have very successful careers in nursing.

    Joyce Keithley

  4. My husband Larry and I met in undergraduate nursing school in Milwaukee. in 1984 we decided to to Africa on a nursing conference/picture safari. It was there that we met Luther and Dorothy. We had a wonderful time with them. The conference topic was the Rush model. Once Luther learned that I was planning on graduate school and nurse-midwifery, he spent the next two full weeks of the trip recruiting me to come to Rush for the post-BSN doctoral program. Needless to say, his recruitment was successful. At 25 years of age, I was accepted to the short-lived Rush midwifery program and later completed my doctorate in Nursing at Rush. I was able to share with Luther a few years ago, the story of how he changed my life. I started what is now the largest midwifery practice in Wisconsin and helped start the Marquette University College of Nursing, Midwifery Program. I still practice, teach and do research. My professional dreams have come true. I will always credit Luther for the boldness of my career.

  5. Luther was a memorable person, a champion for nursing and for higher education of nurses. He was a visionary and likely way ahead of his time. He inspired me and made me think. Luther attended the graduation ceremony when I was hooded for my doctorate and he came to my party following the event. He leaves a great legacy and big foot prints for all of us. Diann Martin

  6. Dr. Luther Christman was a true nursing icon. His ideas about the need for a clinical doctorate were considered radical at the time but have now become accepted. The Rush model for nursing allowed full expression of the professional nursing role in collaboration with all other professional disciplines. I feel privileged to have been at Rush during Luther’s tenure as Dean -he was always there to listen and counsel. I still heed his advice as I work with organizations.

  7. Dr. Christman was a remarkable leader in nursing and as many have already stated a true visionary. I was honored to have been awarded the Luther Christman Dean’s Award in 1984 as I completed my Master’s Degree. I fondly recall that as Dr. Christman handed me the plaque and congratulated me on my achievements, he asked: “When are you starting your doctorate?” I will always remember that moment and his amazing leadership.

    Pamela Steinbach, RN, MS

  8. I was fortunate to work with Luther Christman first as a student in the inaugural class of Rush University College of Nursing where I was the only RN in the BSN program. I am forever grateful that Luther and the faculty developed a customized program that took into consideration my diploma education and experience as an RN. Luther inspired me to continue my education with Rush in the master’s program in oncology nursing. After graduation, I became a practitioner-teacher at Rush where I spent some of the most exciting years of my career. Luther inspired, prodded, teased, and challenged his faculty and students to think outside the box and work to advance nursing practice and education. My fondest memories are of Luther “stirring the pot” and causing lively debate wherever he went. I am thankful to Luther for his encouragement and for challenging all of us to be better.

    Susan Groenwald

  9. Pingback: Readers Remember Luther Christman « Rush InPerson

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