Academic Leader, NIMH Trailblazer Dr. Rhetaugh Dumas Passes Away

Rhetaugh Graves Dumas, PhD, RN, FAAN, one of the nursing profession’s most distinguished leaders, educators, researchers, health policy-makers and psychiatric nursing scholars, passed away on July 22 at the age of 78. Dr. Dumas was vice provost emerita, dean emerita and Lucille Cole Professor of Nursing at the University of Michigan School of Nursing in Ann Arbor. She was the first African American woman to serve as a dean at the university and was also the first woman, first African American and first nurse to serve as a deputy director at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Dr. Dumas joined the University of Michigan nursing faculty as dean in 1981 and served in that capacity until 1994, when she was named vice provost for health affairs. As dean, she had a major impact on the advancement of nursing, health care and academic programs at the university and she led the School of Nursing in forming collaborative partnerships with the School of Medicine and other related disciplines. She also conducted her own extensive research in the field of mental health nursing and was the author of many journal articles and book chapters.

In the 1970s, she held key leadership positions at the NIMH, one of the National Institutes of Health. From 1972-1976, she served as chief of the Psychiatric Nursing Education Branch in the Division of Manpower and Training Programs. In 1979, she was appointed deputy director of the institute’s Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration. Dr. Dumas held many other administrative and teaching positions during her 50-year career and was a charter Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

Her choice of nursing as a career was inspired by her mother, who had dreamed of becoming a nurse but was not able to attend nursing school because of her race. Born in Natchez, Miss., in 1928, Dr. Dumas earned her BSN degree from Dillard University in 1951 and her master’s degree in psychiatric nursing from Yale University in 1961. In 1975 she received her doctoral degree in social psychology from the Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities (now known as Union Institute & University).

The University of Michigan School of Nursing is establishing an endowed chair in Dr. Dumas’ memory. Contributions can be made to: The University of Michigan School of Nursing, The Rhetaugh Graves Dumas Endowed Chair Fund, 400 NIB, #1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5482.