Tuskegee University appointed nursing education veteran Dr. Constance Smith Hendricks as its new dean of the School of Nursing and Allied Health, effective Jan. 2, 2018. Hendricks is no stranger to Tuskegee, where in the mid-80s she served as an assistant professor and nursing administrator of the university’s then John A. Andrew Community Hospital, and as a professor in 2010.
Most recently, Hendricks served as the founding chair (dean) of the Division of Health Sciences at Concordia College in Selma, Alabama, where she grew up. The majority of her 40-plus-year higher education and teaching career was spent at Auburn University, where her 17-year tenure included teaching in her community health specialty and coordinating graduate and outreach programs in the School of Nursing. Achieving the rank of professor, she also was named one of two inaugural university-wide recipients of the Charles W. Barkley Endowed Professorship in 2010 before retiring in 2015.
Her other career experience includes teaching and administrative appointments at a variety of institutions in the region. These include the University of Alabama at Birmingham; University of South Carolina; Southern University, where she launched the state’s first doctoral nursing program; Hampton University; where she served as dean; and Kentucky State University, where she led the development of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, which was the university’s first doctoral program in any field. Prior to these appointments, she garnered a variety of clinical and administrative experience in Alabama and South Carolina hospitals and clinics.
“I always wanted to be a nurse,” Hendricks recalls. “I come from a family of educators and nurses. So, while nursing was my first passion, I soon discovered that I could influence many more to positively affect the level of healthcare if I helped educate and graduate more folks like me.”
“I am humbled to have the opportunity to advance Dr. Lillian Holland Harvey’s dream,” Hendricks said, referencing the efforts by the school’s inaugural dean to establish at Tuskegee what was then the state’s first baccalaureate degree program in nursing in 1948.
“My goal is to grow the School of Nursing and Allied Health’s enrollment, programs and, of course external funding,” she continued. “Doing so will require the input and assistance of our faithful alumni, and I look forward to reconnecting with them to ensure our programs’ continued excellence.”
Her professional and social memberships include the American Nurses Association, Chi Eta Phi Nursing Sorority Inc. (life member), LINKS Inc., National Association of Parliamentarians, National Black Nurses Association (life member), National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa Inc., Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society for Nurses, Toastmasters International, and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. (diamond life member). She also is a certified life coach and a certified Faith Community (parish) Nurse. In 2016, she was inducted into the Tuskegee University Nursing Hall of Fame.
Hendricks holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing and master’s degree in community health — both from the University of Alabama at Birmingham — and a Ph.D. in clinical nursing research from Boston College, where she was the first African-American to complete its nursing program. She is a licensed registered nurse in Alabama and in 2009 was inducted as a fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Nursing.
She is the mother of one adult daughter, Dr. Denisha Hendricks, who in addition to being appointed recently as the executive director of the YMCA of Selma-Dallas County, continues to serve as a senior associate with the athletics executive search firm Beverly & Associates.
Tuskegee University’s nursing program dates back to 1948, when Dr. Lillian Holland Harvey established what was then the state’s first baccalaureate degree in nursing program. Today, nationally accredited programs in Tuskegee’s School of Nursing and Allied Health lead to bachelor’s degrees in nursing and health sciences, or master’s degrees in occupational therapy.