Frontier Nursing University - A Journey Through Time

Honoring our past, focusing on our future.

Frontier Nursing University (FNU) has evolved dramatically throughout its 80-year history. Mary Breckinridge, Frontier’s founder, was a compassionate and visionary pioneer nurse who, with her nurse colleagues, traveled on horseback to deliver care and attend births in Kentucky’s rural Appalachian mountains.;xNLx;;xNLx;Mrs. Breckinridge’s vision was to have her mission expanded and replicated across the nation and the world. Accordingly, in the decades that followed, Frontier dramatically extended its outreach, without veering from our core commitment of caring for women and families. Now, with more than 4,000 graduates, Frontier nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners bring their compassion and professionalism to rural and underserved communities, worldwide.;xNLx;;xNLx;FNU is an internationally recognized and highly rated graduate nursing university - providing doctoral and master’s degrees for nurses and midwives, while concurrently stressing the importance of compassion and caring with each of our students.;xNLx;;xNLx;Without the determination and dedication of Mary Breckinridge, and all who have made her bold vision a reality - our alumni, students, faculty, staff, Couriers, preceptors, supporters and friends – FNU would not be the top-rated, mission-focused university we are today.;xNLx;;xNLx;This timeline highlights the important events leading up to our founding in 1939 and just some of the many ‘milestones’ we have reached in more than seven decades since. We look forward to our future with optimism, and with a renewed commitment to serve.;xNLx;;xNLx;FNU proudly claims the following:;xNLx;;xNLx;+ 80 years of experience in graduate nursing and midwifery education;xNLx;;xNLx;+ Oldest and largest continually operating nurse-midwifery education program in the United States;xNLx; ;xNLx;+ First family nurse practitioner program in the country;xNLx;;xNLx;+ Pioneered the first midwifery community based distance education program in the United States in 1989;xNLx;;xNLx;+ More than 8,000 nurses and midwives have graduated with advanced practice degrees;xNLx;;xNLx;+ Students and alumni represent every U.S. state and many foreign countries;xNLx;;xNLx;+ Named a “Great College to Work For” by The Chronicle of Higher Education;xNLx;;xNLx;+ Frontier Nursing University's programs are consistently ranked among the top in the nation.

1881-09-01 00:00:00

Mary Breckinridge Born

Frontier founder and pioneer nurse Mary Breckinridge is born in Memphis, Tenn. Many experiences and opportunities lead Mary to devoting her life to the service of others.

1910-09-01 00:00:00

Mary Breckinridge Graduates

Mary Breckinridge graduates from St. Luke’s Hospital Training School for Nurses in New York.

1916-07-11 15:17:27

Mary Breckinridge is Inspired by Her Own Tragedy

Mary Breckinridge’s newborn daughter, Polly, dies, followed two years later by the unexpected death of her four-year-old son, Breckie. The deaths of her two children spark an overwhelming motivation to devote her life to the care of children.

1918-01-25 01:06:04

Mary Breckinridge Begins Work with Midwives in France

Mary Breckinridge joins the American Committee for Devastated France to help those who were starving in French villages, a task that would strongly shape her resolve, her purpose and her future. Her experience of working with midwives and nurse-midwives while serving on this Committee leads her to conclude that nurse-midwifery services are a logical solution to many health problems in her home country. Back home in Kentucky, progressive reforms had improved the lives of women and children, especially in America’s cities. But children in remotely rural regions had been neglected.

1923-02-19 12:12:07

Survey Reveals Need For Nursing

Mary Breckinridge conducts a survey of Leslie County, Ky., and verifies the need for nursing and midwifery services in the area.

1924-02-19 12:12:07

Mary Breckinridge Completes Midwifery Training

Mary Breckinridge completes midwifery training in Woolwich, England, and returns to rural Kentucky. Inspired by the knowledge she gained abroad and the evident need for nursing services in rural Kentucky, Mary Breckinridge is instrumental in establishing the Kentucky Committee for Mothers and Babies. This is the first organization in America to use nurses trained as midwives under the direction of a single medical doctor.

1925-02-19 12:12:07

500 People Arrive at The Big House

Five hundred people arrive at the Big House at Wendover, Mary Breckinridge’s home, for a Christmas party and house dedication.

1926-02-19 12:12:07

First Rural Outpost Clinic Opens

The first rural outpost clinic, the Jessie Draper Memorial Nursing Center (Beech Fork Clinic) opens.

1928-07-02 11:14:44

Frontier Nursing Service Named

The name of the Kentucky Committee for Mothers and Babies is changed to the Frontier Nursing Service (FNS). To learn more about the Courier Program which continues today visit

1928-08-02 11:14:44

Hyden Hospital Opens

The Hyden Hospital opens, staffed by Frontier Nursing Service nurse-midwives and one physician.

1928-09-02 11:14:44

The Courier Program Begins

The Courier Program begins. Couriers assist nurses with everyday chores, including delivering communications and supplies to clinics, caring for the horses, and assisting with home visits.

1931-09-02 11:14:44

Forgotten Frontier Premiers

Amidst the backdrop of the Great Depression, the FNS silent film Forgotten Frontier, by Mary’s cousin, Marvin Breckinridge, premieres in New York City.

1933-09-02 11:14:44

Met Life Publishes Summary

Metropolitan Life Insurance Company publishes a summary of the first 1,000 FNS births. The summary concludes that the services provided by FNS significantly decrease maternal and neonatal mortality.

1939-03-26 12:05:28

The Frontier Graduate School of Midwifery Established

The Frontier Graduate School of Midwifery is established by Mary Breckinridge and admits its first class. The first two students were Hannah Mitchell and Jennie Burton.

1940-06-09 21:23:39

Tech Advances Impact Rural Appalachia

Technology advancements impact rural Appalachia. Nurse-midwives begin using Jeeps instead of horses to traverse the eastern Kentucky mountains. In 1949, electric lights come to Wendover.

1941-06-09 21:23:39

Mardi Cottage Opens

Mardi Cottage opens on the Frontier campus to provide accommodations and classroom space for student nurse-midwives. Today, Mardi Cottage continues to serve as a clinical learning laboratory and classroom.

1942-06-09 21:23:39

The Garden House Destroyed

The Garden House at Wendover is destroyed by fire and then rebuilt through donations.

1952-06-09 21:23:39

Wide Neighborhoods Published

Mary Breckinridge’s autobiography Wide Neighborhoods is published.

1954-06-09 21:23:39

10,000th FNS Baby Born

The 10,000th FNS baby, Marlene Wooten, is born. All maternal and infant outcome statistics for FNS’s first 30 years of operation are better than the country as a whole.

1962-02-27 05:13:30

1st Mary Breckinridge Day

The first Mary Breckinridge Day is held in Leslie County, Ky. with Mrs. Breckinridge leading the parade at age 81.

1965-02-26 05:13:30

Mary Breckinridge Passes

Mary Breckinridge passes away at age 84 and leaves behind a legacy.

1965-02-27 05:13:30

Helen Browne Becomes Director

Helen Browne, known as “Brownie,” becomes second Director of the Frontier Nursing Service. Brownie had been Mrs. Breckinridge’s assistant and did much traveling on behalf of FNS.

1966-03-27 05:13:30

FNS Home Health Established

Home health began at each of the FNU District clinics in response to the Medicaid/Medicare law in 1966.

1970-03-27 05:13:30

Frontier Launches First FNP Program in the U.S.

Frontier launches the first family nurse practitioner program in the United States. The school name becomes Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing (FSMFN) to reflect the focus on educating nurses to provide care to all family members.

1975-09-09 19:21:54

Mary Breckinridge Hospital Opens

Mary Breckinridge Hospital opens to serve the local Hyden, Ky., community.

1978-09-09 19:21:54

20,000th FNS Baby Born

The 20,000th FNS baby is born.

1978-09-09 19:21:54

50 Years of the FNS Courier Program

This year marks 50 years of the FNS Courier Program.

1985-01-09 19:21:54

FNS Archives Presented to University of Kentucky

FNS Archives collection presented to University of Kentucky during FNS 60th Anniversary Celebration.

1989-01-09 19:21:54

Distance Learning Begins

FSMFN looks at new ways to increase the number of midwives while remaining focused on the mission of educating nurses in rural and underserved areas. The first distance learning nurse-midwifery program is launched as the Community-Based Nurse-Midwifery Education Program (CNEP), allowing students to remain in their home communities while completing their education at Frontier. This CNEP program is the culmination of the efforts of FSMFN, AABC, Maternity Center Association and Case Western. The CNEP program is piloted in Perkiomenville, PA, and led by Kitty Ernst. FSMFN adopts the CNEP program in 1990 and launches it as the primary nurse-midwifery program. The program includes a course on birth centers with training and compensation for clinical preceptors. FSMFN becomes a pioneer in the field of distance learning.

1991-01-01 12:11:35

FSMFN Partners with AABC

FSMFN partners with the American Association of Birth Centers (AABC) to ensure all midwifery students are trained in the development and operations of free-standing birth centers. Birth center education is now included in the FSMFN nurse-midwifery program curriculum to better prepare future certified nurse-midwives to be entrepreneurs and help improve healthcare options.

1991-05-09 19:21:54

1st CNEP Graduation

Graduation is held at Wendover for the first Community-Based Nurse-Midwifery Education Program (CNEP) Class with 22 graduates.

1991-11-27 12:11:35

Big House Becomes National Historic Landmark

The Big House at Wendover, Mary Breckinridge's original log cabin home, becomes National Historic Landmark by National Park Services.

1999-11-27 12:11:35

First CFNP Begins

FSMFN admits its first Community-Based Family Nurse Practitioner Distance Education Program (CFNP) class.

2001-11-27 12:11:35

The Big House B&B

Mary Breckinridge’s home, the Big House, opens as a Bed and Breakfast in Hyden, Ky.

2004-11-27 12:11:35

FSMFN Accredited

FSMFN obtains regional accreditation to grant Master of Science in Nursing degree.

2005-11-27 12:11:35

First CWHCNP Class

FSMFN enrolls the first Community-Based Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner Education Program (CWHCNP) class.

2007-11-27 12:11:35

ADN-MSN Established

FSMFN establishes the ADN-MSN Bridge option to allow students with an Associate Degree in Nursing to directly obtain their Master of Science in Nursing degree.

2008-11-27 12:11:35

First Post-Master's DNP Class

FSMFN admits the first post-master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) class. The addition of this degree program supports the national goal of having advanced practice nurses prepared at the doctoral level to meet the increasing need for primary care practitioners.

2010-11-27 12:11:35

Mary Breckinridge Statue Dedicated

The Mary Breckinridge statue is dedicated in Hyden, Ky., to commemorate Frontier’s founder.

2011-05-26 12:11:35

Frontier Ranks as Top 50 Graduate Nursing School

U.S. News and World Report names Frontier as one of the top 50 graduate schools of nursing in early 2011. Frontier's nurse-midwifery and family nurse practitioner programs are also named in the top 15 in the country.

2011-05-27 12:11:35

First Annual Diversity Impact Event

FSMFN kicks off the first annual Diversity Impact Event in summer 2011 inviting students, alumni, faculty and staff to unite on campus to focus on cultural awareness and diversity issues. PRIDE seeks to promote recruitment and retention to increase diversity in nurse-midwifery and nurse practitioner education.

2011-11-27 12:11:35

Frontier Nursing University Named

Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing becomes Frontier Nursing University (FNU) in July 2011. Frontier continues to carry out the mission of Mary Breckinridge by educating nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners to serve in rural and underserved areas worldwide. With the success of its innovative distance-education programs, Frontier students and graduates are serving women and families in all 50 states and many foreign countries. Frontier has now graduated nearly 3,000 nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners.

2012-05-26 12:11:35

FNU Establishes New Courier Program

The FNS Courier Program is taken over by the University. The Courier Program is a service learning internship focused on serving rural and underserved communities and distinguished by its legacy and the adventuresome nature of site placements. Sites include rural health clinics and birth centers in Appalachia - as well as outpost locations across the country. Learn more about the Courier Program at

2012-05-27 12:11:35

100th Distance Education Class

FNU celebrates 100th distance education class since launch of Community-based Nurse-Midwifery Education Program in 1989.

2013-02-01 13:56:56

FNU Named a Great College to Work For

Frontier Nursing University is one of the best colleges in the nation to work for, according to a new survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the nation’s most important source of news about colleges and universities.

2013-03-01 13:56:56

500 Graduates

FNU has more than 500 nurse-midwife and nurse practitioner graduates for the first time ever. The annual commencement ceremony attracts nearly 1,000 attendees to Hyden, Ky.

2013-09-01 13:56:56

President and Dean Defined

After more than a decade of Dr. Susan Stone serving as both president and dean of Frontier Nursing University, the roles are separated to better serve the educational needs of the increasing student population. Dr. Stone continues in her role as FNU President and Dr. Julie Marfell is named as the new Dean of Nursing. Dr. Stone and Dr. Marfell continue moving FNU forward as a leader in graduate nursing and midwifery education.

2014-08-01 13:56:56

FNU Named in Top Online Nursing Programs

Frontier Nursing University Ranks in Top 30 Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs by US News & World Report.

2014-09-01 13:56:56

FNU 75th Anniversary

Frontier Nursing University celebrates its 75th Anniversary. This milestone marks 75 years of dedication to the mission of educating nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners to provide care to women and families with a focus on rural and underserved communities.

2015-01-01 13:56:56

FNU Nurse-Midwifery Program Named #1 by US News & World Report

FNU's nurse-midwifery program is ranked #1 in the country by US News & World Report's 2016 specialty nursing program rankings.

Frontier Nursing University - A Journey Through Time

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