Until 1950, School of Nursing students were exclusively white, female, and single. Signs of change began in the early years of Florence M. Gipe's tenure as dean when the Maryland Court of Appeals forced the School to admit its first African-American student, an 18-year-old Baltimore native named Esther McCready.
On left: Esther McCready’s yearbook picture, 1953
A negro petitioner, who had all the educational and character requirements for admission to the school of nursing at the University of Maryland, and who was denied admission solely because of her race, was denied the equal protection of the laws, notwithstanding that the University had offered the petitioner an equally good course of nursing in another state at no more expense pursuant to an interstate compact .
From Court of Appeals of Maryland opinion in the case of McCready v. Byrd et al., April 14, 1950
I'm sure the difficulties you're going to encounter have been thoroughly pointed out to you so I'll just say that I very greatly admire your courage and you may count on me to do everything in my power to help you.
Virginia "Ginnie" Mathews writing to Esther McCready, August 25, 1950. Mathews ' Class of 1952 selected McCready as her "Little Sister."
In the summer of 1959, 70 years after its founding, the School of Nursing quietly admitted its first male student. Hector Cardellino, a 27-year-old Pennsylvanian, was, by his own account, an unsuspecting pioneer.
In the late 1950s, after four years as a Navy Corpsman, Cardellino began taking classes at the University of Maryland, College Park. An advisor, Sidney Grolman, asked Cardellino if he had considered a career in nursing. Cardellino soon found himself in the College Park office of nursing school administrator Margaret Hayes. There he overheard a telephone conversation in which School of Nursing Dean Florence Gipe uttered these fateful words, “Sign that boy right up!”
Hector Cardellino paid little attention to his groundbreaking role, but his presence forced the school to make a series of adjustments. Unable to live Parsons Hall, Cardellino found a place on his own before being offered a room with University Hospital residents. Officials solved the uniform dilemma by having him wear a white shirt, white pants, a black tie, and black shoes.
After graduating in 1961, Hector Cardellino joined the School of Nursing faculty as an instructor in medical-surgical nursing. Earning his master’s degree in 1968, Cardellino later took an assistant director of nursing position in Prince George’s County, Md. He passed away in 1999.