How an honorary Gator Nurse and faculty member saved UF Nursing history.
At 82-years-old, Jodi Irving describes herself as a piece of the UF College of Nursing’s history.
Since first teaching at the College of Nursing in 1965, she has worked with the college’s five deans and has seen nearly seven decades of college history pass by in what felt like the blink of an eye.
Besides teaching, Irving was one of the first psychiatric nurse faculty in private practice in the state of Florida in 1973. Irving’s retirement from full time teaching in 2011 did not see her passion for education end. She continues to teach part-time in the college’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program and is now a beloved member of the Gator Nursing alumni community.
“At first, I thought I would be the last person who would ever be hired to teach,” Irving said. “But I truly had a terrific career, I did not want it to end.”
After becoming an honorary College of Nursing alumna in 2006, the celebration year of the college’s 50th anniversary, Irving was astonished as she realized that she had personally experienced exactly half a century of history, and that she still carried the fond memories made over the years along with her.
Looking to the past
It was Irving’s interest and lifelong passion for history that originally prompted her to address the story of the college.
“We often get lost in the busyness of the day-to-day,” Irving said. “But despite looking forward to the future, it’s equally as important to remember where we have been.” A self-described “information junkie,” Irving was always fascinated by history. However, her eye for picking out key information worth remembering spurred her into action after realizing the college was missing an official record of its history during a 50th anniversary celebration.
As a member of the planning committee for the 50th event, Irving discussed this predicament with Kathleen Long, PhD, RN, FAAN then the college’s Dean, and was soon offered a solution. Long tasked Irving with establishing a permanent record of how the college has evolved throughout the years.
For inspiration, she turned to the past itself, tracking down key college documents and validating information from former faculty and others.
“One of my favorite parts about the college is its stories,” Irving said. “I always loved the history we reflected back on when looking back! However I wanted to create something of record so those stories could live on in a visible way.”
Five decades of excellence and counting
Through research that captured the past of the College of Nursing, Irving created exactly that.
Thanks to her efforts, a permanent memorial to five decades of College of Nursing history now stands on the third floor of the Health Professions, Nursing and Pharmacy Building in a dedicated history ‘alcove.’ The location features panels containing special photos and timelines from in 1956, the year the college was founded, to, most recently, history selected for the college’s 60th Anniversary in 2016.
Key accomplishments contributing to the college’s mission catalog years of faculty, students staff and alumni’s place in the history of the college. These are adorned on the panels on the walls of the alcove and include special select historical events in the nursing profession as well as social and political facts from across the years to give a sense of how the college has responded to change.
Since then, Irving has worked to bring celebrations of history to all areas of the college. She has since established the Jo Annalee “Jodi” Irving College of Nursing History Fund to support historical preservation efforts in the Thomas M. and Irene B. Kirbo Learning Lab, aid undergraduate students and document Gator Nursing accomplishments as the years go by.
With 2026 and the college’s 70th anniversary on her mind, Irving recognizes that she and the alcove have become building blocks for the future. She looks forward to capturing this next decade that will join the fabric of the College of Nursing’s history.
“Gator Nurses, no matter their role, all have a place College of Nursing,” Irving said. “We are all part of its story, which provides a bridge between the past and the present. My hope is that this effort will help us remember who we are, as well as predict where we are going.”