RDC honours nursing program pioneer

As the family story goes, Marguerite Schumacher was asked to develop a nursing program for Red Deer College. She said yes but only if she could do it her way.

As the family story goes, Marguerite Schumacher was asked to develop a nursing program for Red Deer College. She said yes but only if she could do it her way.

“She had taught at the University of Alberta for a while and the college asked her to come down and help them structure a nursing program,” said Rod Schumacher, her nephew and a teacher at RDC set to retire this fall.

“She came and started putting the nuts and bolts together.

Then she went back to the University of Alberta and the college contacted her again, asking her to move to Red Deer and set the whole program up.

“Her answer was ‘Only if I can do everything I want to do.’ The answer was affirmative enough for her to come.”

Marguerite built the college’s nursing practitioner program from the ground up, starting a two-year in school program.

This was a departure from the three-year hospital-based programs that were used at the time.

Marguerite was honoured with a plaque on the RDC legacy of excellence wall Wednesday. She is only one of a handful of people to make the wall.

Rod Schumacher called her a “daunting aunt.”

“She was a values-centered person. She didn’t care what you did for a living or your education but it was how you ran your life and your values that were on her mind.”

Marguerite emigrated to Canada from Switzerland when she was six with her family. Her brother, Rod’s father, was four.

They came to Winnipeg and she had earned two masters degrees by the early 1960s.

“She had a cohort of friends who were mostly women who never married who had masters and PhD’s in the 1950s and 1960s,” said Rod Schumacher.

“A really interesting core group of women taking over the power reins in institutions across the country that would have been in the hands of men.

“She wouldn’t have thought of herself as a feminist, but it was in her nature to achieve those kinds of things. She opened the door for a lot of women.”

Coralea Forbes was one of the first hand-picked faculty Marguerite hired when she started the nursing program at RDC.

Forbes wrote the biography of Marguerite on the plaque.

““She would put out a little carrot to the faculty and if we weren’t ready to bite, she would haul it back and a little later it would come out again until people were ready to go with her. That takes a lot of skill,” said Forbes.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com

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