Thelma Pegues, MN, BSN, RN has been a trail­blazer, an advocate and a mentor. Her commit­ment to civil rights and nursing have often overlapped and inter­twined, most notably in her work on the inclu­sion of ethnic and racial minority content in nursing curriculum.

Thelma entered Dillard Univer­sity in New Orleans ot pursue a course of study with plans of becoming a physi­cian. At Dillard, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Pre-Medicine. However, her educa­tion was inter­rupted and redirected with her reloca­tion to Seattle, Washington.

Thelma attended the Univer­sity of Washington School of Nursing, completing her Baccalau­reate Degree in Nursing Science in 1955 and a Master’s Degree in Nursing in 1969. In 2001 she was given Minority Student Recog­ni­tion by the Univer­sity of Washington which honors students who experi­enced, confronted, and broke racial barriers which enabled future minori­ties to attend schools of higher learning.

Her leader­ship abili­ties and willing­ness to serve are demon­strated by her appoint­ment to respon­sible leader­ship position in organi­za­tions such as WSNA, AARP, Delta Sigma Thau, an Inter­na­tional Public Service Organi­za­tion, the Mary Mahoney Profes­sional Nurses’ Organi­za­tion and other groups. Thelma joined WSNA in 1956 and has been an active partic­i­pating member for many years, serving two terms as Chair­person of the Minority Affairs Committee. She also served on the WSNA Board of Direc­tors for two years by appointment.

As a member of AARP, she served as the Assis­tant Director of Washington from 1987 to 1997. Thelma received an award for outstanding AARP Assis­tant Director for her work towards the Universal Health Plan in the late 80s.

Thelma has been a leader and an activist in the Mary Mahoney Profes­sional Nurses Organi­za­tion. A member for 60 years, she has held almost every office, including Presi­dent, Secre­tary, Treasurer, Schol­ar­ship Chair­person, Chair­person of the MMPN Endow­ment Fund and presenter of numerous outstanding workshops.

Thelma was one of the first African American nurses to secure employ­ment at Harborview Hospital as a staff nurse working on pediatric, gynecology, and the GU nursing floors. She was later appointed the Super­visor of In-Service Educa­tion in 1960 – 1970.

Thelma left Harborview to become an educator at in the Seattle Commu­nity College system I 1970. During the Civil Rights movement and a decade later, Thelma actively engaged in the themes of that era and was on the forefront of the need to bring about change in the nursing profes­sion. Matric­u­lating at the Univer­sity of Washington, she knew first­hand that changes were needed if all patients’ needs were to be met.

The Commu­nity College system promised innov­a­tive changes in educa­tion and reassured the African American commu­nity that minority educa­tors and faculty would be hired to bring about equality and social justice, and to have a faculty repre­sen­ta­tive of the of the local popula­tion. Thelma was the first African American nursing faculty member to be appointed to teach nursing at the Seattle Commu­nity College campus. As a nursing educator and activist, she distin­guished herself in her 16 years of employ­ment there by serving on special commit­tees and seeing that all minority voices in the commu­nity were heard and honored.

In addition to advocating for the profes­sion, nursing students, patients and others, Thelma’s greatest contri­bu­tion was the inclu­sion of and increase in ethnic and racial minority content in the nursing curriculum. This opened a new chapter in nursing direct patient care for minori­ties. Thelma’s publi­ca­tions also provided an aware­ness and knowl­edge of the care of the African American patient. Her most widely known articles include the instruc­tional guide Hair, Scalp and Skin Care of Black Hospi­tal­ized Patients’ published in 1978 and The Physical and Psycho­log­ical Assess­ment of the Black Patient’ in 1979.

Thelma will be remem­bered by her students and colleagues for going that extra mile to assist her students who failed the Washington Board of Nursing Exami­na­tion required to practice nursing. Thelma took it upon herself to tutor these students until they success­fully passed the exami­na­tion. Many of these students were minori­ties or spoke English as a second language. Her motiva­tion was for them to become effec­tive, efficient regis­tered nurses that would go out and server their patients with love.

With her distin­guished and commend­able service, she was featured in a biograph­ical sketch in the book African American Nurses in Seattle: The Struggle for Oppor­tu­ni­ties and Success”. She was also recently honored with the Nurse of the Year – Nurse Legend Award by the March of Dimes given to a retired nurse whose lifetime career has advanced the field of nursing for all gener­a­tions in the future.