Dr. Hart was born in Winnipeg and has spent her life in Manitoba. Her chosen profession of nursing began in 1930 when she graduated from the Winnipeg General Hospital, School of Nursing. From her early experiences she became convinced that education was a prime factor in promoting the practice of nursing. She prepared herself by obtaining a Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, and a Doctorate of Education degree in the department of Nursing Education at Teachers College Columbia University, New York. Dr. Hart returned to Manitoba where she became well known as a pioneer in Public Health Nursing and was instrumental in developing programs to advance nursing education in public health and administration.
Throughout her earlier career, Dr. Hart was a strong advocate of community health nursing, believing that the primary role of nurses is in the prevention illness and the promotion of health. Current developments in health care policy attest to her wisdom and vision as the need for expanding the community health nursing role is now being acknowledged.
Dr. Hart joined The University of Manitoba, School of Nursing in 1948. Prior to 1948, courses and certificate programs had been offered for nurses at the university since 1938. However, it was not until 1943 that the university formally established a School of Nursing which today, is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.
Dr. Hart served as Director of the School of Nursing for 24 years from 1948-1972, during which time major milestones in nursing education were accomplished. In accordance with her firm commitment to higher education for nurses, Dr. Hart was instrumental in the development of the first four year baccalaureate nursing program in Manitoba as well as a two year program for registered nurses which led to a degree in nursing.
Dr. Hart recognized the need for graduate education. After obtaining her Doctorate of Education degree in Nursing at Columbia University, she utilized the findings of her thesis on Needs and Resources for Graduate Education in Nursing in Canada, to develop programs for graduate education. Dr. Hart submitted the first proposal for a Master of Nursing degree at this University in the 1960's, although the program was not actualized at that time.
During Dr. Hart's professional life, she contributed to the development of nursing education, provincially, nationally and internationally.
In Manitoba, she was actively involved in the provincial association providing guidance as nursing education was evolving. At the national level she was a charter member of the Canadian Association of University Schools of Nursing and was a made an Honorary Member in 1972 for her distinguished contributions to nursing education in Canada.
Internationally, Dr. Hart was a founding member of the National League for Nursing, an organization which provided outstanding leadership to advance nursing education in both the United States and in Canada. She was also active internationally with the American Public Health Association and the Royal Society of Health. As a member of Zonta International, she was instrumental in the establishment of scholarships from which nursing and other students benefitted.
In recognition of Dr. Hart's contributions to nursing education, the Margaret Elder Hart Graduate Study Scholarship in Nursing was established by the Nursing Education Alumni of the University of Manitoba, in 1972.
Dr. Hart was recognized provincially with the award of the Manitoba Centennial Medal and nationally with the Canada Centennial Medal. She was further honored in 1986 when she received the Manitoba Association of Registered Nurses Award for Excellence in Nursing Education. In 1991, the Margaret Elder Hart Distinguished Lecture Series was established at The University of Manitoba, School of Nursing.
Dr. Margaret Elder Hart, a leader with vision and foresight, broke new ground for the benefit of those who followed. With quiet strength, with grace and with strong-minded determination, Dr. Hart has contributed to nursing in Manitoba. Dr. Hart is held in high esteem by the Faculty of Nursing, the nursing community and the university community.
During the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Faculty of Nursing bestowing an honorary degree is a fitting tribute to this nursing pioneer.
Mr. Chancellor, it is my privilege to ask, in the name of the Senate of The University of Manitoba that you confer upon Dr. Margaret Elder Hart, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
-citation delivered by Arnold Naimark, President, University of Manitoba