October 14, 2016

A commanding presence

An estate gift from a notable U of M graduate allows the School of Nursing to continue its legacy of bold innovations.

It's a long road from tending tobacco fields in North Carolina to being named one of the 350 women who changed the world by Working Woman magazine, but General Clara L. Adams-Ender, ’69 M.S., has always defied convention.

The daughter of sharecroppers and the fourth of 10 children, Adams-Ender spent more time in the tobacco fields than she did in the classroom. But her parents recognized that education would free their children from farm work, prompting Adams-Ender to study at night. She graduated second in her class and went into nursing at her father’s urging—a decision that led to a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees on Army scholarships and a remarkable 34-year military career.

Woman wearing fatigues, using hand gestures as she speaks
General Clara Adams-Ender speaking to troops in Bosnia

Highlights of Adams-Ender’s career include being promoted to brigadier general; overseeing 22,000 nurses as chief of the Army Nurse Corps; and being the first Army nurse to command a major Army base, which involved managing 12,000 people and a budget of $90 million.

After retiring, Adams-Ender spent 15 years as president of Caring about People with Enthusiasm, a management consulting firm. Now focused on “shoring up” her legacy, she recently included a gift for the University of Minnesota in her estate plan. The Clara AdamsEnder Endowed Leadership Chair will support a dean at the School of Nursing.

“I went to the U because it had a reputation for an outstanding program,” says Adams-Ender. “It was instrumental in my earning a master’s in nursing, moving on to executive positions, and shaping me into the person I became.”

“Clara is committed to positioning the school in the strongest, most sustainable way possible,” says Connie White Delaney, dean of the University of Minnesota School of Nursing. “We’ve had many conversations about leadership—particularly around developing women leaders in health care. What’s unique about her gift is that it’s not just another chair. It’s a specific designation for the dean, allowing the school to continue its legacy of bold innovations, asking hard questions, and designing interventions that further our system of care.”

In honor of Adams-Ender’s accomplishments, she was named grand marshal of the U of M’s 2016 Homecoming parade.

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