Glass, Helen

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Glass, Helen

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  • Helen Preston
  • Helen P. Glass

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HELEN PRESTON GLASS, B.Sc.N., M.A., M.Ed., & Ed.D., (Columbia), LL.D. (Hon. Causa, Memorial), LL.D. (Hon. Causa, Western)

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1917, and educated in Saskatchewan schools until the end of grade twelve, Dr. Helen Preston Glass began her university education at the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Home Economics. After one successful year there, she decided instead to pursue a career in nursing, and completed a three-year degree program at the Royal Victoria Hospital School of Nursing in Montréal, Québec in 1939. She then stayed on at that facility as a supervisor in the Anaesthetic Department, and subsequently moved on to many other nursing positions in general hospitals in Dunnville, Ontario; Abbotsford, British Columbia; and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan between 1941 and 1945. From 1952 to 1953, Dr. Glass worked as a clinic nurse in an obstetric clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Dr. Glass began her career teaching nursing at the Holy Family School of Nursing, in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, from 1953 to 1955. Here, she taught courses in foundations, issues and trends in nursing at both undergraduate and graduate levels, and developed and taught a new clinical teaching program. She then moved on to Victoria General Hospital, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she taught both basic sciences and clinical nursing courses. She earned a Certificate in Teaching and Supervision from the University of Manitoba in 1958, and furthered this pursuit at Columbia University Teacher’s College, completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1960 and a Master of Arts in 1961. She then became the first person to assume the position of Education Secretary for the Manitoba Association of Registered Nurses (MARN). As such, she was responsible for planning and conducting workshops and providing consultation to Schools of Nursing. Glass acted as liaison with other health disciplines in Manitoba, and as secretary to the various committees associated with MARN. She was also instrumental in creating the Manitoba Nursing Research Institute (now the Manitoba Centre for Nursing and Health Research).

In 1962, she joined the Faculty of the University of Manitoba School of Nursing, teaching programs for both new students and registered nurses. She was primarily responsible for the design and implementation of introductory and third year level courses for the first four-year baccalaureate nursing program which began in 1963. After completing her Master of Education in 1970, and Doctor of Education (Nursing) in 1971, again at Columbia University, Dr. Glass returned to the Faculty, and in 1972 became full professor and Director of the School of Nursing. She received honorary Doctor of Law degrees from Memorial University in 1983, the University of Western Ontario in 1986, St. Francis Xavier University in 1991, and the University of Montreal in 1993, and an honorary Doctor of Science degree from McGill University in 1995.

Dr. Glass has been the recipient of a number of awards honouring her achievements in both nursing and education. Upon her graduation from the Royal Victoria Hospital School of Nursing in 1939, she received the award for Proficiency in Bedside Nursing. She was awarded the Dr. Katherine E. McLaggen Fellowship Award from the Canadian Nurses’ Foundation for both 1968/69 and 1969/70, and the Marion Woodward Award and Lecture from the University of British Columbia in 1974, and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal in appreciation of exemplary service in 1977. She was named one of 1979's Women of the Year by the YWCA. She was also awarded the R. Louise McManus Medal from the Nursing Education Alumni Association of Teachers’ College, Columbia University, and the Jeanne Mance Award of the Canadian Nurses’ Association in 1992. In 1993 she was given the Special Achievement Award by MARN, among many other honours.

Dr. Glass has been both member and chair of several professional associations and committees, at the university, provincial, national, and international levels. Examples include membership in the Council of the Canadian Association of University Schools of Nursing (CAUSN), the National Nursing Committee of the Canadian Red Cross Society, the Board of Directors of the Big Sister Association of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba Senate Executive Committee. She has served on the Manitoba Association of Registered Nurses Social Policy Committee, and the YW/YMCA Board of Directors and the Manitoba Health Research Council.

Dr. Glass has also been an invited member of the Task Force on Euthanasia and Definition of Death, Law Reform Committee of Canada, and was a member of the Review Board for the National Health Grants Directorate. She has consulted on health care proposals and nursing education programs within Canada, and has helped develop submissions to the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, the Hall Commission, and the Canada Health Act. She has been President of MARN, President and member of the Canadian Nurses’ Association (CNA) Board of Directors, and a member of the Canadian Nurses’ Foundation (CNF) Board of Directors. She was active in the Canadian Conference University Schools of Nursing, and served on the Canadian Delegation to the World Health Assembly in 1983 and again in 1985.

Politically, she was very active in educating nurses across Canada and enlisting their support to successfully introduce health care amendments to the Canada Health Act, which went through 1982 to 1984, while Dr. Glass was president of the CNA. She has also been active in the Canadian Health Care Economics Association, and presented the first paper by a Canadian nurse on “Economics of Nursing: Cost Effective Strategies,” to the Second Canadian Conference.

Following Dr. Glass’s retirement from the faculty of nursing at the University of Manitoba in 1986, the Canadian Nurses Foundation established the Doctor Helen Preston Glass Fellowship for Doctorate Study, awarded annually to a student pursuing their graduate degree in nursing.

In 1988, Dr. Glass was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and received the Order of Manitoba in 2008. In 1995, she was given a honourary life membership in the Canadian Public Health Association, in recognition of outstanding services in the promotion of public health. In 1989, after her retirement from the University of Manitoba, Glass was named Professor Emerita. 1999, the University of Manitoba honoured Dr. Glass by naming their new nursing building after her. Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne, dedicated the building during her visit for the 1999 Pan American games. In 2013, Glass was presented with the Centennial Ward from the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba.

Dr. Glass published widely on nursing and health care in professional journals in Canada and the United States, and internationally in French, English, and Danish. Dr. Helen Glass passed away on February 14, 2015.


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Created and Revised by: Marcia Stentz, Stewart Boden, Kendra Mikula, Alan Neyedly, Vladimira Zvonik (1999;2001;2003). Revised by N.Courrier (October 2018). Revised by M. Horodyski (June 2019).




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