Named after its major benefactor, a St. Louis-based Black lawyer and civil rights advocate, Homer G. Phillips Hospital was the world’s largest Black hospital of its time. In addition to treating patients, it recruited, hired and provided medical training to Black doctors and nurses who had been barred from most other hospitals, schools and universities throughout the country.
“The community rallied around the hospital because there wasn’t equal opportunity for African Americans who wanted to become nurses and doctors. The Homer G. Phillips School of Nursing met a great need and also provided great care for the community,” says Dr. Ridenour.
“It really resonated with me because we want to increase the diversity in the nursing workforce, to have nurses that look like the patients we care for and to remove finances as a barrier for people to become nurses.”
As a result, Dr. Ridenour decided to create a Goldfarb scholarship that would honor the graduates of the Homer G. Phillips School of Nursing. Thanks to her generosity, the Homer G. Phillips Nurses Alumni, Inc. Scholarship was established in 2020 at The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
The alumni group, after which the scholarship is named, was founded in 1922 with the graduates of St. Louis City Hospital Number 2 School of Nursing, which later became the Homer G. Phillips School of Nursing. At the time the latter closed, more than 1,000 had graduated from the nursing program, says Jobyna Foster, the alumni group’s outreach coordinator and a former president.
“We take great pride in being excellent nurses,” she says of her former colleagues, most of whom are now retired. “We loved our work.”
Today the group has about 60 members spread across the United States, with chapters in Chicago and Los Angeles.
Yvonne Jones, current president of the group, explained that most of the Homer G. Phillips students were from other states, particularly the south, because there were no other options for Black applicants.
“We couldn’t go anywhere else,” she says. “But once you graduated from Homer G. Phillips, they would hire you on the spot.”
Yvonne said the Goldfarb scholarship named after the Homer G. Phillips alumni group has personal meaning because she remembers the challenges of paying for a nursing education.
“At that time, the tuition was $385,” says Yvonne, who graduated in 1968. “My mom, bless her heart, had a hard time even getting that together because she cleaned offices.”