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Student services director Virginia Proctor witnessed Emory history

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Virginia Proctor (left) with alumna Robin C. Davis of Global Health Action Photography by Kay Hinton

When the first two African American students walked through the doors of the School of Nursing in January 1963, Virginia Proctor 50G 50TH stood shoulder to shoulder with Emory nursing dean Ada Fort to welcome them. The director of student services at the time, Proctor was a witness to Emory history as Fort worked tirelessly to enroll Verdelle Bellamy and Allie Saxon, both 63MN, as graduate nursing students during the civil rights era.

"We watched them like hawks to make sure they came to no harm," said Proctor in 2001. "We never dreamed it would go off as smoothly as it did. Inside the school, we never picked up on any ill feeling toward Verdelle and Allie at all. They were so charming and happy to be there. And they worked hard."

Proctor, known for her strong sense of mission, deep faith, and concern for the well-being of people around the world, died peacefully on January 29 at age 96 in her native South Carolina. Trained as a teacher and Christian youth leader, Proctor served with the School of Nursing from 1961 until she retired in 1981. Nine years earlier, Fort and Proctor cofounded the nonprofit known today as Global Health Action (GHA), which continues to train nurses and other community health leaders and implement long-term health and development programs in underserved areas of the world. Proctor was particularly fond of GHA’s Goat Project in Haiti, which evolved into a successful rural development program to improve family livelihoods.

"Virginia loved people, and she saw and brought out the very best in everyone she met, whether friend or stranger," says Robin C. Davis 76MN RN, GHA senior adviser and president emerita. "She inspired and encouraged thousands of health and community leaders to improve health and the quality of life for others in more than 95 countries." 

Proctor received many honors and awards during her lifetime, including the Points of Light Award from President George W. Bush and the Community Health Charities of Georgia and the Georgia Commission on Women awards. She is survived by family and friends in Laurens and Clinton, South Carolina, and in Decatur, Georgia. — Pam Auchmutey

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