Honoring a Nurse | Florence Grossberg

A Legacy of Care and Education

family celebrates graduation
Florence Grossberg and family celebrate her grandson Jacob’s graduation from UW–Madison in December 2016. Front row (left to right): Florence Grossberg, Jules Grossberg. Back row (left to right): Dean Ziemke, Jacob Ziemke, Paul Grossberg.

Ask anyone who met Florence Grossberg what they remember most about her, and they will tell you her positive energy, radiant smile, and compassion for others. They’ll also tell you about her passion for nursing and education, as well as her commitment to making the world a better place. A native of the Bronx, New York, Florence found her true calling in 1944 when she joined the United States Cadet Nurse Corps. In 1946, she earned her bachelor of science in nursing from the New York University Bellevue School of Nursing and later went on to receive a master of nursing education from Columbia University Teachers College.

After a successful career in hospital and clinic nursing, Florence became a certified health and nursing teacher and taught at Walton High School in the Bronx for 20 years. Her skills in teaching were lauded, but she had a natural talent for mentoring and encouraging her young students to pursue their interests in health careers, especially nursing. She started lessons by writing “SMILE” in large letters on the board, and she motivated students by listening to their challenges, helping with solutions, and telling them, “You can do it!” Her genuine concern for the well-being and success of her students made her a beloved teacher.

Florence and her husband Jules Grossberg moved to Madison, Wisconsin, in 2014 to be closer to their son, Dr. Paul Grossberg, his husband, Dr. Dean Ziemke, and their family. Throughout her life, she encountered innumerable students, health professionals, and caregivers; and she encouraged them to pursue any opportunity to learn and advance their careers. She was particularly fond of encouraging registered nurses to go back to school for a bachelor of science in nursing. Beyond nursing and teaching, she was also an advocate for women’s rights, equality, and exercising one’s right to vote.

After Florence’s passing at 97 years young, Paul and Dean wanted to ensure her legacy would endure. The Florence Grossberg Nursing Scholarship was created in Florence’s memory to provide support to students at the School of Nursing who come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds and diverse environments. Staying true to her teachings, the fund will provide tuition assistance and mentorship opportunities for students enrolled in the BSN@Home program, an RN-to-BSN program designed for registered nurses to further their nursing education and earn a bachelor’s degree while working full time. This is the School’s first scholarship to directly support students in the BSN@Home program.

Though Florence was not a Badger nurse herself, she loved living in Madison, and her family has a strong history with the university. Paul is a clinical professor emeritus in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and Dean received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism, and doctorate in mass communications from the UW–Madison College of Letters and Science. In addition, Florence’s grandchildren are all UW alumni—Paul and Dean’s children, Sean Grossberg and Jacob Ziemke, and Dr. David and Karen Grossberg’s children, Sam Grossberg and Hannah Grossberg. Creating this fund in honor of their family’s matriarch allows them to keep Florence close to home while continuing her life’s work of creating opportunities for future generations of nurses.

“My mother believed in the importance of education and creating opportunities for those from disadvantaged backgrounds,” says Paul. “She had so much love for her family, students, and everyone around her. Our family wanted to honor her career as a nurse, educator, and mentor by giving back and creating opportunities for those who wish to further their education.”

To learn more, visit supportuw.org or email Scott Fletcher, director of development.