Farewell to Dean Martha N. Hill–Onward!


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Leave a thought below for Dean Martha N. Hill as she returns to the faculty after 12 years as dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

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Dean Hill with Students


  1. I arrived in September 2002 as the new Dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing knowing no one in the community. One of the first individuals to reach out to me was Dean Martha Hill. This generosity should be no surprise to those who know her. As two new Deans were established a bond that has grown over the past decade. Our Schools have enjoyed a strong relationship and created several joint activities. Martha Hill is a scholar, leader and consummate professional. It has been a privilege to know her and call her colleague and friend.


    Janet D. Allan, PhD, RN, FAAN
    Dean Emeritus
    University of Maryland School of Nursing

  2. When Dean Hill first approached me to discuss what she thought might be the right timing for a transition of the deanship of our school, I was immediately stressed by the concept of losing such a phenomenal leader. But as Martha shared her thinking with me, I was so impressed with her approach to positioning the school for a transition in leadership. Never once was the conversation about Martha; it was always about the Nursing School and its promising future.

    All of our institutions would be well served by having leaders with Martha’s vision, selflessness, and stature. She defines leadership and this school will continue to be enriched by having Martha return to the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing faculty.

    Now we’re thinking transition. That’s largely due to Martha’s perpetual optimism and famous “Onward” philosophy and—for me—the opportunity to serve on the University search committee for the next dean. Yet there’s another key factor driving our new outlook. Many of us have reached an eye-opening realization: Once again, Martha, the ultimate agent of change, is providing the catalyst for another milestone in the School’s history.

    In stepping down from an amazing platform of accomplishment—a platform built through her constantly upward trajectory of positive and successful change—she is creating an enviable launching pad for another decade of enduring Hopkins excellence. As she has done throughout her career, Martha is creatively employing change to kick start the transition to tomorrow’s Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and the excitement that brings to us all.

    I’m pleased to have the opportunity to celebrate Martha’s leadership with you. Although her “Onward” philosophy usually prevents her from looking in the rear view mirror at the school’s many accomplishments during her tenure, the following pages and foldout do just that. They are only a small representation of where she has taken the School and only a few planks in the platform that she has built. Take a minute and join me in looking back at this incredible climb.

    On a sad note, Martha faced another life transition this year. Just last month her husband and true life partner Dr. Gary Hill died. Martha and Gary were an iconic Hopkins couple; both alums, both professors, both outstanding researchers, both leaders in their fields. Although he lived and conducted research in Paris much of each year, Gary was always here for us as a genuine member of the School’s community. He will be missed.

    –Walter “Wally” D. Pinkard, Jr., Johns Hopkins University Trustee Emeritus

  3. Fewer than 30 years ago, this University did not have a nursing school. Today, by any measure — undergraduate, masters, and doctoral education programs; research; and service to our communities locally and around the world the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing is one of the best anywhere.

    The School’s astonishing leap to national and international prominence is due in part to our ability to build upon the remarkable tradition, history and excellence of nursing education at Johns Hopkins, including the hospital-based nursing training program that began in 1889.

    But it is also attributable to the extra-ordinary contributions of dedicated faculty and staff, beginning with its leaders. And no one has contributed more throughout the School’s history than its current dean, and one of its original faculty members, Martha Hill.

    It is with deeply mixed emotions that I share that Dean Hill plans to conclude her service as dean at the end of this academic year, remaining a member of the faculty and returning to her research. While I am delighted for her that she will embark on this new chapter, I will truly miss her leadership of the School and her counsel on University-wide matters.

    Martha Hill embodies the very best of Johns Hopkins. She earned her nursing diploma from The Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Nursing and her bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the University. She was one of the first four faculty members to join founding dean Carol Gray when the School of Nursing was established as a standalone division of the university. She later became director of its Center for Nursing Research.

    She helped to advance broader university goals through joint appointments in the schools of Medicine and Public Health and service on important university bodies. In all her endeavors, from championing urban health initiatives to increasing the School’s commitment to global health, Martha has been a passionate and effective advocate for nurturing the excellence of individual faculty, students and staff. She also has passionately and effectively advocated for fostering interdisciplinary connections across our departments and divisions that ensure our ability to better educate our students, care for our patients, and effect change in our communities.

    Her internationally recognized scholarly work has brought considerable prestige to Johns Hopkins and made her a transformative leader in her field. She is known worldwide for devising and proving strategies to overcome healthcare disparities and improve hypertension care and control among urban, underserved African-Americans. She was the first non-physician to serve as president of the American Heart Association. She serves on the Council of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. She also is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and vice chair of the board of Research!America.

    Martha became dean of nursing in 2002 after a year of service in an interim capacity. Since then, the School;s advances have been nothing short of remarkable. She has overseen growth in the size and stature of the faculty and the student body. She has led a growth in research funding of more than 440 percent. She has revised an already robust undergraduate curriculum and built superb graduate programs, recruited outstanding faculty, initiated important new research efforts, and greatly reinforced the school’s finances.

    We will honor Martha’s work in part by finding a successor capable of building on the foundation she has established and leading the school to even greater levels of excellence. Details of a search will be announced soon.

    There will be ample opportunity before next summer to more formally celebrate Martha’s tremendous success. For now, let me join her many colleagues in expressing gratitude for her great friendship and for everything she has done and will continue to do to ensure the success of Johns Hopkins Nursing and our entire University.


    Ronald J. Daniels
    President, Johns Hopkins University

  4. Gerry Byrnes Hahn '73 on

    I was a graduate of the class of ’73 (last of the diploma school of nursing) and had the privilege of having Martha for part of my public health rotation-specifically in the clinics. She was always so enthusiastic and nudging us with one more question to ask the patient so we could help them with the best plan to be compliant with meds or diet

    As naive 20 year olds, most of us dreaded this prodding process (as evidenced by the cartoon that was part of our yearbook), however 17 years later I found myself choosing home health nursing and over that first year found all the things Martha taught me falling into place like dominoes. Twenty-three years later I’m still grateful for all the little things she taught me–I know I serve my patients’ needs better for meeting them where they are.

    Thank you Martha!

    Gerry Byrnes Hahn ’73

  5. It is a great pleasure and privilege to write about Dean Martha. It is actually sad to see good/excellent people stepping down, but sometime or the other we need to make space for the next generation. I met Dean Martha in 1999 at the Medical Research Council in Cape Town, SA when she visited our unit via Professor Krisela Steyn. When I saw her, I looked at her with such big inspiration. She appeared so bold, vibrant, assertive, well mannered, and full of energy. I thought wow, this woman is a true example to the whole world. She does not judge people, she has respect for any living soul and she pays attention to the smallest detail of a conversation or the movement our body makes.

    She made me laugh many times for ideas she will come up with or just very funny comments. In 2005, Dean Hill and Dr. Cheryl Dennison invited us to the JHU School of Nursing to present our findings at the Hypertension conference in Puerto Rico. I WAS IN AWE. It was the first time that somebody ever showed such great gratitude for work accomplished in 2003/4 in a hypertension study in Crossroads, Cape Town.

    Martha–I thank you again and again. It was my first international trip. She went so far as to invite my family–my husband did not wait for the second invitation and made all his arrangements. lol Where in the world do you find such kind people like Dean Hill? Maybe more in USA than in South Africa lol. She allowed us into her space and into her life.

    Another funny story: while we were discussing the conference agenda, Dean Hill asked me, “Debbie, what do you miss from home, I know you Cape Town people like your foods and outdoor braai, etc.” I answered and said I miss home cooked food. So she arranged a “braai” (with more JH people) at her house. I asked her if I can make the fire, but she took out the barbecue griller and laughed. I said no Dean Martha “that’s not a braai.” But she cheered me up by singing the American anthem. Oh, we had such fun that night.

    Dean Martha Hill, I salute you for being a very strong and courageous woman. May God guide you, give you the strength and wisdom to continue your beautiful journey. In Xhosa they say “Hamba kahle,” meaning go well, go strong.


    Debbie Jonathan
    Chronic Diseases of Lifestyle Research Unit MRC

  6. Cathy Vincenzes Delligatti JHH'73 on

    We were the last class of the diploma school and I made a conscious choice to go to Hopkins rather than a BSN program. We were told at the beginning that there were no do overs. If you failed, you had to leave.

    Martha was one of my nursing instructors for Fundamentals and I remember her telling me to organize patient care like I was getting ready for a date. As a new 20 something nursing student that made perfect sense to me and helped me to prioritize and plan care more effectively.

    My friend Cathy Novak (JHH ’73) and I house sat for Martha and Gary the summer we graduated. They were a young couple with 2 young children and we were newly graduated nurses who had a whole townhouse to ourselves after living in Hampton House for 3 years! They lived right across the street from the hospital so work was walking distance. We were even able to have friends over for dinner. Mary Jane Donough (Asst Dir of Nursing School) had dinner with us one evening and we felt so adult.

  7. Christine Savage on

    I have known Martha for only a short time, but it doesn’t take long being with Martha to have the experience change your life. One of the main reasons I came to Hopkins to join the faculty was the opportunity to work with Martha. I have not been disappointed. She has a way of helping you stretch beyond what you thought you could do and much to my surprise she also uncovered things I want to do that I never even thought I did! “What do you want to be known for and and what are going to do about it?” Definitely words to live by – thank you Martha and may you enjoy your unfolding journey!

  8. Phyllis Sharps on


    We started our new positions together in 2001, you as Dean and me as new faculty member at JHUSON – and what a wonderful journey it has been – I will always be thankful and grateful for your vision, your confidence and support and allowing me to be a part of implementing the vision – Best Wishes for Continued Success as your discover a new facet of your life – as you move ONWARD and GLOBALLY – Enjoy and All the Best – Phyllis

  9. Dear Martha,

    I’m sorry I can’t be there to celebrate your fantastic run as Dean of the #1 School of Nursing, but I am traveling overseas (something with which I know you have little familiarity!).

    People may be “celebrating”, but inwardly they are “crying”. You’ve brought your talented faculty and students so far, so fast, that it is hard to digest. Yes, I know that in your generosity you will immediately claim you did nothing special, and that your successor will be at least as successful a steward of Hopkins Nursing as you have been — and we ALL hope so! But “yours are big shoes to fill”.

    We take solace in the knowledge that you are still a proud alumnus of the Bloomberg School – excuse, me: the “School of Hygiene and Public Health”. And, you will remain on campus (to the degree the rest of the world will let you) to continue to inspire, advise, mentor and coach students, faculty, provosts and deans. And of course, remain a highly sought ambassador of the University in general, and School of Nursing in particular, to the rest of the world.

    Like everyone assembled on what I hope is a glorious day, I’ve always enjoyed your friendship and insights, and look forward to continuing to benefit from both, long into the future.

    As someone who has already made this transition, I can assure you, as I have in the past, that you will LOVE your new life! Advancing the School of Nursing has to have been as much of a high for you, as advancing the Bloomberg School was for me. But how nice it is to read the New York Times in the morning over coffee, instead of late at night after 14 hours of slogging through bureaucratic rubbish and administrative bickering !!

    Much love and admiration.


  10. Tener Goodwin Veenema on

    Dear Martha,
    I am sorry that I will be unable to attend your celebration this afternoon- I will be traveling to the ACHNE conference to present at the Research Seminar.
    My sincere congratulations to you on all of your amazing accomplishments as Dean. You are an inspiration and role model for us all!! Best wishes to you as you embark upon this ‘next chapter’. I hope that it is joyful. I will look forward to working with you in the future.
    Most sincerely your,

  11. Dean Hill,

    Thank you for your leadership in making the Henderson-Hopkins school a special place. No other school can boast the active participation of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.

  12. Maureen Moore Dodd on

    Martha Hill,

    I am one of your students from many, many years ago….1968 at JHH. Since then, you have accomplished so much. Really impressive! My very best wishes to you as you embark on your next adventure. I am certain that you will bring the knowledge, energy and enthusiasm that has been your hallmark
    Best Wishes,
    Maureen Moore Dodd
    Hopkins class of 1969

  13. Geraldine Hirsch Fitzgerald on

    In 1968 you were my freshman instructor on Osler 2. You were so reassuring to me because Miss Farr was on that floor and I was scared to death of her.

    I have followed your career and am so proud to say that you gave me guidance as a student nurse (and kept me away from Miss Farr)

    Best wishes for your future endeavors.

    Geri Fitzgerald

  14. Eileen Leinweber on


    The Class of 64 members are so proud of you and all of your accomplishments. Not only do we value our JHH SON education but we enjoy knowing that one of our own has made it better and prepared for the future.

    Thank you,
    Eileen Leinweber
    Class of 64

  15. Karen Haller on

    Much will be said about Martha Hill’s talent and accomplishments as a researcher, educator, and administrator. I will leave those areas for others to comment upon, and instead speak about Martha as a person whom I have known since arriving at Hopkins in 1988.

    Martha is a healer, a unifier, and an expander.

    Martha took the Deanship at a time when many relationships – between people and between institutions – were frayed. These she healed.

    She often spoke to me of “shrinking Wolfe Street” and creating a semi-permeable membrane” between the School of Nursing and the Hospital’s Department of Nursing. She unified Johns Hopkins Nursing.

    Martha has vision, and she expanded Nursing’s role on the campus, as well as nationally and internationally.

    We all feel more expansive because Martha was in our midst – seeing the possibilities rather than the problems, seeing the potentials rather than the liabilities, and seeing the opportunities rather than the risks.

    With all sincere thanks,

    Karen Haller, PhD, RN
    Vice President for Nursing and Patient Care Services

  16. Patricia Davidson on

    Dean Hill

    What a stellar career. I am in awe and admiration. Thank you for what you have done for nursing as a profession and health for humanity. Onwards and upwards!

  17. Sarah Szanton on

    Martha is the reason I switched to working with older adults. She told me I should think about it, and it is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. Her ability to match people with other colleagues and mentors is unparalleled and much remarked upon. She matched me with my whole field!

  18. Dear Dean Hill – I want to thank you so much for your continued support of SOURCE (Student Outreach Resource Center), the community service and service-learning center for the JHU Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health. Your commitment to East Baltimore, and to experiential learning for our students has been greatly appreciated. Thank you for serving as an advocate and a true leader for community engagement efforts.

    Yours in service,
    Mindi Levin

  19. Veronica Barcelona on

    Dear Dr. Hill,
    Thank you for all you have done to promote and advocate for public health nursing and for the SON. You have been a wonderful and important mentor in my career as a public health nurse, always there to support, give advice and cheer accomplishments. I remember our trip to Cuba in 2000- a great example of your mentorship and desire to provide opportunities for those around you.
    I wish you a well-deserved, restful and enjoyable sabbatical, and hope to catch up with you when you’re back!
    Warm regards,
    MSN/MPH 2001

  20. Carolyn Cumpsty Fowler on

    You are an inspiration! While your official retirement marks the end of one era at SON, it promises to reveal yet another frontier that you will embrace and explore. I look forward to hearing of your future adventures and accomplishments – previous evidence suggests they will be extraordinary!
    I wish you health, joy, wonderful discoveries, and a steady supply of excellent red wine and chocolate.

    Thank you for your vision and for all that you have given – and will continue to give – to so many in so many ways.


  21. Martha,

    All the best as you move forward opening the next chapter of your career trajectory. Thanks for all the memories, mentoring, wise counsel, collegiality, and friendship you have provided since I came to Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing only a few, short four years ago. Wishes for health, safe travels, and happiness as you continue your life journey; your contributions and leadership of the school have been greatly appreciated.

    Warm wishes,

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