School of Nursing dedicates atrium to former dean Colleen Conway-Welch

Colleen Conway-Welch portrait in atrium

The atrium in the new $23.6 million Vanderbilt University School of Nursing building has been named after former dean Colleen Conway-Welch, PhD, FAAN, FACNM, who served as dean for 29 years and is credited with transforming nursing education at Vanderbilt and nationally.

The Colleen Conway-Welch Atrium will serve as the main entrance to the school at 461 21st Ave. S. and connect all four of the nursing school’s buildings together.

“Under Colleen’s direction, Vanderbilt School of Nursing became a leader in nursing education, practice and research. In her nearly three decades as dean, the school educated thousands of nurses who changed — and continue to change — health care at all levels and for many people,” said Linda D. Norman, DSN, FAAN, VUSN Dean and Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing. “Her impact cannot be overstated.”

Frank Bumstead, Linda Norman in new Colleen Conway-Welch AtriumDuring a June 5 dedication ceremony, Norman thanked the trustees of Conway-Welch’s estate and the Colleen Conway-Welch Family Foundation for providing the funds for the atrium and for their vision for honoring the late dean. “We are most grateful for these gifts, which allow us to memorialize Colleen and her extraordinary life, leadership and dedication to Vanderbilt School of Nursing,” she said.

Trustee and long-time friend Frank Bumstead, a Nashville financial consultant, talked about Conway-Welch’s dedication to her three rescue animals, close friends and nursing education. Her estate plans provided for all three, he noted, but when it came to nursing education, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing was No. 1. “Vanderbilt was the love of her life,” Bumstead said.

Provost Susan Wente, Roy Simpson, William Johnson, Dean Linda Norman, Betsy WeinerThe four-story atrium features a floor-to-roof glass wall and skylights that let in natural light, an artisan-crafted wall constructed with basswood from a tree removed from the site, a wide monumental staircase designed to encourage movement and interaction, various places for student study and student-faculty engagement, and an open, welcoming reception area. Conway-Welch’s official  portrait by renowned artist Michael Shane Neal has been installed in the space.

“The atrium was created to be the centerpiece of our new building. It provides a place for the school community to gather, learn, work, eat and interact,” Norman said. “Colleen’s name is on the gateway to the school, nursing education and this communal space. It will be a forever symbol of her unforgettable generosity, dedication and legacy.”

Conway-Welch died from cancer in October 2018, four months before the building was completed. She served as VUSN dean from 1984 until 2013, when she retired and was named dean emerita by the university.

Top image:
Colleen Conway-Welch Atrium at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing

Middle image:
Colleen Conway-Welch’s longtime friend Frank Bumstead and Dean Linda Norman spoke at the dedication of the atrium.

Bottom image:
From left, Vanderbilt Provost Susan Wente, Roy Simpson, Greg Johnson, Dean Linda Norman and Senior Associate Dean Betsy Weiner during the reception for the naming of the Colleen Conway-Welch Atrium.

Photos by Anne Rayner, Vanderbilt University