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About Rheba de Tornyay

Rheba de Tornyay

The de Tornyay Center for Healthy Aging honors Dr. Rheba de Tornyay, who served as dean of the UW School of Nursing from 1975 to 1986. A dedicated educator, scholar and nurse, Dr. de Tornyay made outstanding contributions to the fields of nursing and gerontology including lifelong work in nursing research, training and services for healthy aging. During her time as dean, she emphasized nursing research scholarship, including establishing one of the first nursing PhD programs. The UW School of Nursing became ranked the number one public school in the nation.

Dr. de Tornyay was a tireless advocate for the nursing profession. As a student, she pushed back against conditions for student nurses and helped to organize the Bay Area Student Nurses Association, despite suffering consequences for her activism. She was the first woman and nurse elected to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation board of trustees and directed the Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Scholars Program. She helped found the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) and served as its first board president. When she retired, Dr. de Tornyay was named an AAN Living Legend.

An innovative and thoughtful teacher, her book Strategies for Teaching Nursing set a standard in nursing education for decades after it was first published. Throughout her career, she was constantly learning and sharing her knowledge. In an East Hampton Star essay, a friend of hers recounted a story from towards the end of her life, when she changed her stance on medical marijuana and even organized a talk about it in her retirement community.

The de Tornyay Center for Healthy Aging is made possible in part by a generous endowment from Dr. Rheba de Tornyay and her husband Dr. Rudy de Tornyay and is dedicated to carrying on Dr. de Tornyay’s legacy of excellence in nursing and gerontology.

“[Rheba’s] real dream, I think, was imagining what future students would be able to create, what you would be able to inspire, not just in your own work, but in your work with students, your work with older adults, and to begin thinking about what is left on this agenda…”

Dr. Nancy WoodsDean Emeritus of the UW School of Nursing

Referenced Materials:

Online Materials: 

UW News – Rheba de Tornyay, dean emeritus of School of Nursing, dies at 87

Journal of Nursing Education – Remembering Rheba

Seattle Times – Obituary: Rheba de Tornyay, pioneering UW School of Nursing dean

The East Hampton Star – Guestwords: Rheba Tries Pot

American Academy of Nursing – Conversation with Rheba de Tornyay

Print Materials: 

Houser, B. & Player, K. (2004).  Pivotal Moments in Nursing: Leaders Who Changed the Path of a Profession, Volume I. Sigma Theta Tau International