Salve Regina names nursing department to honor multi-generational support of Rodgers family

The Rodgers Family Department of Nursing was officially dedicated today by Salve Regina University’s Board of Trustees to honor the passion of their longtime fellow trustee, the late Thomas A. Rodgers III, and to pay tribute to the multi-generational support of the entire Rodgers family.

The action was taken on the eve of National Nurses Day during a private campus ceremony attended by the Salve Regina community and members of the Rodgers family.

Rodgers (1945-2015), who had a deep interest in health care, nursing and education, was to receive an honorary degree during Salve Regina’s 66th commencement on May 15, an award that will be presented posthumously to his family. His father, Thomas A. Rodgers Jr. (1914-2006), the founder of Globe Manufacturing Co. in Fall River, Mass. in 1945 and the original developer of Newport’s Goat Island, was also a longtime Salve Regina board member and friend who first joined the university’s President’s Council for Development in 1977. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1998.

“Over many years – from generation to generation – the vision and leadership of the Rodgers family has empowered our academic community to continue its tradition of excellence in nursing education,” said Jane Gerety, Salve Regina president. “We know Tom would be proud to have his family’s name attached to a program striving to develop nursing graduates who are the most highly skilled and Mercy filled caregivers in all the communities in which they serve.”

The Rodgers family has worked closely with three Salve Regina presidents, all Religious Sisters of Mercy: Sister Lucille McKillop, Sister M. Therese Antone and Sister Jane Gerety. Across three generations and four decades, their family’s commitment through friendship, service and leadership has helped advance the university in myriad ways, including the construction of a recreation center, the creation of an arts center, the building of a chapel and the establishment of a graduate program in nursing – the doctor of nursing practice.

“My family’s relationship with Salve Regina University has been built on the dual interests of advancing education and health care,” said Sarah Rodgers McNeill, daughter of Thomas A. Rodgers III. “My grandfather believed that a strong university system benefitted every student. And my father’s contributions to the nursing program helped create a graduate program that previously didn’t exist. I’m proud to represent my family’s commitment to Salve Regina University, which my grandfather and father so willingly supported.”

Salve Regina’s undergraduate nursing program, which accepted its first class of students during the 1947-1948 academic year, is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The baccalaureate degree program offers two plans of study – the pre-licensure track and the degree completion track. At the graduate level, the university offers the Doctor of Nursing Practice (BSN-DNP) terminal degree, which was established in 2014.

In fall 2016, the Rodgers Family Department of Nursing will re-locate to the second floor of a new 23,000-square-foot addition to the O’Hare Academic Center, part of the university’s $27.8 million renovation and expansion project. The increased space will feature new classrooms, offices, common learning areas and an enlarged nursing simulation laboratory.

In the 2015-2016 academic year, 322 students enrolled in the university’s traditional pre-licensure undergraduate program and 145 licensed nurse professionals enrolled in its RN-to-BS program, each representing the largest undergraduate nursing enrollments in Salve Regina’s history. For 2016-2017, more than 1,000 students applied to fill about 80 available nursing spots, making it the university’s most competitive academic program.

“The Rodgers family has demonstrated its belief in higher education and is helping to move our mission forward,” said Dr. Eileen Gray, associate professor and chairwoman of the Rodgers Family Department of Nursing at Salve Regina. “It is clear that Tom III saw the value of advancing nursing education. His vision and leadership, along with the Rodgers family’s steadfast commitment, communicates to our students and faculty that someone believes in them, someone they might not even know. And that’s powerful.”

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, nursing school enrollment is not growing fast enough to meet the projected demand for both RN and Advanced Practice Nursing services. There is growing pressure to balance quality and cost, causing health planners to rely increasingly on nurse practitioners as the providers of choice for a range of front-line health services.

“We cannot stop time, the Baby Boomers continue to age,” Gray said. “By 2030, 20 percent of U.S. residents will be older than 65. At the same time, the need for RNs will increase by 19 percent. The Health Resources and Services Administration projects a shortage of 20,400 primary care physicians in 2020, and other experts, too, have projected a large shortfall in the coming years.

“Studies show that NPs can manage 80-90 percent of care provided by primary care physicians,” Gray said. “In addition, substantial research shows that primary care outcomes are comparable between patients served by NPs and patients served by physicians.”