Remembering Vivian Littlefield, former School of Nursing Dean and Professor

Vivian Littlefield

Vivian Littlefield, Dean Emerita of the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Nursing, passed away from an unexpected illness on August 22nd with family by her side in Colorado.

Littlefield served as School of Nursing dean from 1984-1999, her last position before retiring. She was a well-respected administrator, professor, advocate, and mentor to many students and nurse scientists. It was during her deanship that support for the School of Nursing to have a building of its own gained traction. Along with significant financial support from Signe Skott Cooper, Littlefield’s leadership and advocacy led to campus designating a place on its master plan for a building to house the School of Nursing. It was also during her deanship that the School’s PhD program was approved—elevating recognition and opportunities for nursing science.

Dr. Littlefield was a recognized expert in women’s health, nursing care delivery, and the impact of alternative approaches to care on patient outcomes. She was a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing as well as a member of the American Nurses Association and Sigma Theta Tau International. Additionally, Dr. Littlefield served in the federal Health and Human Services agency and on many boards in health care and professional organizations as well as the Girl Scouts.

She formerly served as national chair of nursing for the American Red Cross, where she made many contributions. When the Red Cross chief nurse position was eliminated in 2008, Dr. Littlefield stepped in to provide leadership and advocated to reinstate it. She also led a national initiative for nursing students to advocate for blood donation. In 2013, she was presented the prestigious Florence Nightingale Medal by the International Committee of the Red Cross. She was also honored with the Ann Magnussen Award, recognizing those who strengthen and improve Red Cross programs and advance the continuing involvement of nurses in the organization. It is the highest honor of nursing achievement in the American Red Cross.

Upon her retirement, the Littlefield Leadership Lecture series was established to honor and promote nurse leadership. That annual lecture series is now in its 24th year. It has become one of the School of Nursing’s most valued traditions and reflects Dean Littlefield’s passion for the role of nurses in leading change and improving health through research, education, practice, and policy.