Mchie’s advocacy earns school’s highest honor for non-nurses

Benjamin Mchie was awarded the School of Nursing’s Richard Olding Beard Award.

November 9, 2020

Ben Mchie

Benjamin Mchie, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit African American Registry and a relentless champion for positive social change, was awarded the School of Nursing’s Richard Olding Beard Award during a virtual ceremony on Sept. 17.

The Beard Award, which was established in the school’s centennial year of 2009, recognizes non-nurses whose foresight, wisdom and courageous advocacy for the nursing profession have led to better health care for all.

“Ben is a passionate connector of people and ideas to change minds and hearts,” says Dean Connie White Delaney, PhD, RN, FAAN, FACMI, FNAP. “By capturing his aunt’s experiences he is transforming nursing and the world.”

The African American Registry created by Mchie has become one of the most comprehensive online databases of African American heritage, and Mchie has been a strong proponent for the inclusion of heritage and stories in education and training. He was instrumental in lifting up his aunt Frances’ story and in establishing a scholarship in her name to help the nursing school student body better reflect its community. He was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2017.

Frances Mchie
Frances Mchie

Frances Mchie was initially denied enrollment to the University of Minnesota to study nursing because of her race. She successfully petitioned the state legislature to gain admittance and became the first African American to graduate from the School of Nursing in 1932 and the first African American nurse to be hired in Minnesota. She went on to lead a remarkable career in nursing, nursing education, entrepreneurship and nonprofit service.

Richard Olding Beard, chair of the physiology program at the University of Minnesota, is credited with bringing nursing into the institution of higher learning when the nursing program was established in 1909 at the University of Minnesota.

Beard passionately advocated for the advancement of nursing believing that educating nurses, rather than training them as had been the practice, would help society recognize the worth of human life, conserve human health and provide for social justice. Historian Deborah MacLurg Jensen has said Beard’s actions were, “a step of the greatest consequence for nursing education.” She proclaimed of his founding the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota, “The final step in the creation of the nursing profession had been taken.”

Past recipients of the Richard Olding Beard Award include Frank Cerra, William Crown, Judi H. Dutcher, Richard Norling and John J. Spillane.

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