Syracuse University's Cadet Nurse Corps: A Legacy of Innovation and Service - D'Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families

Syracuse University’s Cadet Nurse Corps: A Legacy of Innovation and Service

Syracuse University’s history in nursing education takes a significant turn with the establishment of the School of Nursing in response to the need for healthcare during World War II. Central to this development is the university’s participation in the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, a program aimed at addressing the shortage of nurses while offering educational opportunities to aspiring healthcare professionals.

The roots of Syracuse University’s School of Nursing can be traced back to the Hospital of the Good Shepherd’s nursing school, which fell under the university’s College of Medicine in 1915. Upon President Franklin Roosevelt signing the GI Bill, Chancellor William P. Tolley extended a warm welcome to all veterans aspiring for a college education at Syracuse University. In 1943, Chancellor Tolley instructed Dean Edith Smith to establish the Syracuse University School of Nursing, a proactive response to the urgent need for nurses during wartime.

The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps was established three days after the Syracuse University School of Nursing admitted its first class. Chancellor Tolley extended scholarships to Japanese American students in internment camps, aiding six students’ admissions. The Cadet Nurse Corps aimed to boost admissions in nursing schools, expedite the training duration, incorporating full-time service in various settings such as civilian, military, US Public Health Service, Veterans, and Indian hospitals during the final six months. Additionally, the program sought to enhance the number of graduate nurses, providing them with supplementary preparation for advanced and specialized roles in teaching, supervision, administration, and public health nursing.

In its 63 years history, the Nursing program became synonymous with innovation and educational milestones. Nursing students, also known as the Blue Angels, gained unprecedented hands-on experience at the Veterans Administration Hospital, showcasing the university’s commitment to practical, real-world training within the Cadet Nurse Corps framework.


Students in the Nursing Arts Laboratory, 1946


The School of Nursing underwent changes in physical locations over the years. Including the War Department Building on Irving Avenue that was demolished in 1952 to accommodate the construction of the new Veterans Administration Hospital. Another subsequent location was 426 Ostrom Avenue.

Syracuse University’s nursing graduates, products of the Cadet Nurse Corps, have made lasting contributions to the field. Alumna and professor emerita, Alice Reynolds, was a pioneer in developing childbirth classes in Syracuse during the late 1940s. Mary Elizabeth Carnegie, a 1952 graduate, broke racial barriers in nursing education and mentored generations of African American nurse leaders. Carolyne Davis, a 1965 graduate, played a crucial role in healthcare administration, managing the Medicare and Medicaid programs under President Ronald Reagan.

Syracuse University’s Cadet Nurse Corps has left an indelible mark on nursing education and practice. The institution’s commitment to innovation, practical training, and public health continues to shape its legacy. The dedication of its graduates to breaking barriers and making a difference in healthcare underscores the enduring impact of this remarkable institution, emphasizing the pivotal role played by the Cadet Nurse Corps during a transformative period in nursing history.


In forthcoming articles, we’ll delve deeper into pivotal moments from SU’s timeline, unraveling the interconnected web of history that defines the University’s enduring legacy in supporting veterans and military students. Stay tuned for more insights into SU’s remarkable journey.