UVA School of Nursing Honors First African-American Graduate

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Mavis Claytor, retired nurse Mavis Claytor, retired nurse
Mavis Claytor Mavis Claytor

The University of Virginia School of Nursing is welcoming back on if its own - a trailblazer who broke the color line as the school's first African-American graduate.

Retired nurse Mavis Claytor earned her Bachelor’s of Science in nursing in 1970 and later earned her Master’s in 1985. She spoke at the nursing school Friday as part of an annual lecture.

Despite the challenges that she went through, Claytor says it was her love for education and learning that kept her striving for greatness.

“You embark upon something, to try to be the best that you can be in that particular area,” Claytor said.

University of Virginia School of Nursing's annual Catherine Strader McGehee Memorial Lecture featured Claytor, a Franklin County native. She was the school of nursing's first African -American admitee and graduate.

Her story at UVA began in 1968.

“I was from the country, so I loved seeing the grounds and the outdoors here, but then when I learned that there wasn't housing here for me, that was sort of a discouragement at that particular time,” Claytor said.

It was the school’s dean who was a godsend.

"She made a call and within a few minutes she told me, ‘You will have housing in the dormitory. Go back there, there's a room available,’” Claytor said.

Current Dean Dorrie Fontaine offered a formal apology to Claytor Friday on behalf of the institution.

Tori Tucker helped lead the question and answer session. As a Ph.D. student, she's working to highlight Clayton’s experience for her dissertation.

“We need to talk about our black nurses, and make sure this history is not lost,” said Tucker.

A history of one woman, who broke the color line at UVA, is now inspiring the next generation to reach their maximum potential.

“My grandfather always taught us when you start something and promise to do something, let your word be your honor and your bond,” Claytor said.

After earning her degrees, Claytor went on to work at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salem where she retired as chief nurse for geriatrics and extended care.

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