Mary Etta Bryant was one of the first Black students at the McLean Hospital School of Nursing. She graduated in 1960 and was the school’s student body president during her senior year.
Bryant was born in Noblesville, Indiana. During her senior year of high school and the year following her high school graduation, Bryant worked as an assembler at RCA in Indianapolis, Indiana.
She continued to work for several more years in the Midwest to afford to go to nursing school. This included a three-year stint as a department store salesperson in Cleveland, Ohio, and two years as an attendant at the State Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana.
She then applied and was accepted to McLean’s nursing school.
“Mary Etta Bryant’s story is so inspiring,” said Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, PhD, McLean’s chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer and director of the hospital’s College Mental Health Program.
“When I try to picture her navigating McLean’s campus in the late 50s, I can’t help but wonder how she felt being one of the first Black students at McLean. It’s been 60 years since Ms. Bryant graduated, and it’s up to all of us to honor her legacy.”
Nursing Training at McLean
When Bryant was on the Belmont campus, the nursing school’s instructional classes were held in Higginson House, which was built in 1924. Higginson also housed the dormitory for female nursing students. Male nurses lived in what is now called the Oaks Building.
According to McLean Hospital historian Terry Bragg, MSLS, MA, students had plenty of leisure activities to participate in when they weren’t immersed in learning. Outdoor activities included croquet, tennis, and golf. Indoor activities included badminton, billiards, and bowling. There was also a coffee shop in the basement of the Centre Building.