UAM Nursing Alumna Honored at 100 Years Old


In December 1978, a tornado tore through Louisiana and Arkansas on the same day as the pinning ceremony for nursing graduates of the University of Arkansas at Monticello. The ceremony was canceled, and the nursing students were unable to receive their registered nurse pins.

Cora Mae Summers, of Ashley County, Arkansas, was one of those nursing students. So was Pat Barnett.

At the suggestion of Barnett, more than 45 years later, on January 26, 2024, the Ashley County chapter of the Arkansas Nurses Honor Guard held a living tribute ceremony to honor Summers at the Crossett Public Library.

Weeks earlier, Summers had turned 100 years old.

“The Arkansas Nurses Honor Guard is honored to dedicate our first living tribute to our honoree, Cora Mae Summers,” Nikol Hamilton, leader of the Ashley County chapter of the Arkansas Nurses Honor Guard, said during the ceremony. “Today, we gather here to honor your nursing journey and offer our heartfelt wishes of comfort and peace in the days ahead. We want to present this tribute to you to honor your nursing career,” Hamilton told Summers.

“My first nursing job was at Union in El Dorado in medical surgery,” Summers recalled. She finished her career at Morehouse General Hospital in Bastrop, Louisiana.

“Though your nursing tasks are complete, they will never be forgotten. It has been the Arkansas Nurses Honor Guard’s privilege to express our respect to you as a nurse and gratitude for all you’ve given,” Hamilton told Summers.

During the ceremony, Dr. Brandy Haley, dean of the School of Nursing at UAM, presented Summers with her official registered nurse pin from UAM. Barbara Shockley of the Arkansas Nurses Honor Guard presented Summers with a white rose Ashley County chapter pin, making her an honorary distinguished member of the guard.

Dr. Haley congratulated Summers and thanked her for her service as a nurse.

“It was an honor to be a part of this living tribute for Ms. Summer and pin her in honor of her service to the nursing profession. Usually, nursing students are pinned at the completion of their undergraduate nursing education, which signifies official initiation into the nursing profession. The pinning of a nurse is a historical tradition in nursing education programs. For Ms. Summer, finally receiving her pin is a symbol of her hard work and dedication, and it celebrates her achievement of her dream of becoming a nurse. The number of lives that Ms. Summers touched across her nursing work experience is unmeasurable,” Dr. Haley said.

“Do you remember that?” Barnett asked Summers during the living tribute, in reference to their canceled pinning ceremony in 1978. “We didn’t graduate from nursing school,” she joked.

Summers laughed but later reflected on her graduating class.

“We all turned out to be good nurses. We learned a lot at the university,” Summers said.

Before pursuing a career in nursing, Summers served in the military during World War II in Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services or WAVES, a women’s branch of the U.S. Naval Reserve, as a Mailman Second Class in New York and Washington, D.C.

The Nurses Honor Guard was established in the United States in 2003. The Arkansas Nurses Honor Guard was formed in 2021. Arkansas currently has 24 chapters across the state. The Ashley County chapter was formed in 2023. According to the Arkansas Nurses Honor Guard, it is “dedicated to honoring nurses upon their passing with a free, beautiful ceremony at their funeral or memorial service.”