The famous biblical verse, “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48) is more than a quote for Constance Smith Hendricks, PhD, RN, FAAN. For the influential University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing alumna (BSN 1974, MSN 1981), it is a mantra to live by.
With more than 40 years of trailblazing experience educating, mentoring and inspiring students who want to fulfill their dreams and become leaders in nursing and health care, Hendricks has blazed a trail on another front as the first African American to establish an endowed scholarship in the UAB School of Nursing.
“I had the privilege of doors being open for me growing up,” Hendricks said. “I want to give students a chance to reach their full potential and have access to higher education, much like I have.”
In 2016, Hendricks accomplished her goal and established the Dr. Constance Smith Hendricks Endowed Scholarship in Nursing in the hopes that it inspires students to give back to their communities and strengthens the bond between the community and minority-run community hospitals.
Hendricks has been a “first” and “only” at almost every step of her career. After earning her BSN and MSN from the UAB School of Nursing, she was hired by Auburn University’s School of Nursing as an instructor in community health nursing, where she was the only African American faculty member. She then followed that up with a milestone only she can say she’s accomplished.
“Going to Boston College in 1989 and being the first African American to graduate from their prestigious PhD program in 1992 was a tremendous honor and a life-changing event for me,” Hendricks said. “I hope my continued efforts have inspired the next generation of students and show them that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.”
Hendricks has devoted her career to developing quality nursing programs at universities across the southeast and even in her hometown of Selma, Alabama. She was dean of the School of Nursing and Allied Health at Tuskegee University, a professor (now emerita) and the Charles W. Barkley Endowed Professor at Auburn University, dean of the Hampton University School of Nursing, developed the DNP Program at Kentucky State University, implemented the first Doctor of Philosophy nursing program in the state of Louisiana at Southern University and A&M College and founding dean of Nursing and Allied Health at Concordia College Alabama in Selma.
Recently Hendricks, along with her friends, have been working on a book, “Alabama’s Notable Nurses,” that recognizes notable nurses in the state of Alabama.
“We are shining a light on nurses who have been in the field for at least 35 years or more and may not necessarily get the recognition they deserve because they are in a smaller county in Alabama,” said Hendricks.