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NECC Nursing Program Celebrates 50 Years

Submitted by on May 6, 2020 – 3:42 pm
Male nursing student poses in NECC's Nursing Lab.

Letoya “Apollo” Mburu, Practical Nursing ’10, Associate Degree in Nursing, ’13

This May marks fifty years since the first class graduated from Northern Essex’s Associate Degree in Nursing Program.

Since that first class, our graduates, now numbering over 3500, have been taking care of local residents in our hospitals and clinics, long-term care facilities, doctors’ offices and schools, in our homes, and throughout our communities.

If you have been a patient locally, chances are high that a Northern Essex Nursing graduate has cared for you.

Meet One of the First Grads

Margaret Fitzgerald, founder of Fitzgerald Health Associates, which provides certification and continuing education for health care providers, and a nurse practitioner at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, was a member of that first class.

After graduating from Northern Essex in 1970, Fitzgerald continued her nursing education, eventually earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice from the Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

A widely published author, acclaimed lecturer, and working nurse practitioner, Fitzgerald says that it was at Northern Essex that she was first recognized as a leader when she was asked to be the nursing student representative to stand beside President Harold Bentley during the nursing accreditation process.  “It was the first time in my life that someone had pulled me to one aside and told me I had leadership potential.  That has stayed with me throughout my career.”

Nursing Program was Just the Beginning

The Nursing Program was the first health care program offered at the college.    Since then the college has expanded to include 20 programs, with respiratory care, practical nursing, radiologic technology, medical assisting, and many other options.  In addition to the Associate Degree in Nursing, Northern Essex also has a two-semester Nursing Advanced Placement: LPN to APN Program for licensed practical nurses who want to earn an associate degree.

Close to one third of currently enrolled students are majoring in health care, and in 2014, the college celebrated the opening of the El-Hefni Allied Health & Technology Center in downtown Lawrence, a 44,000 square foot facility where health care students receive hands-on experience in simulated environments such as a hospital intensive care unit, a trauma room, an acute care hospital room, and an ambulance embedded in the building.

Share Your NECC Nursing Story

Because of the pandemic, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our nursing program virtually.   The spring issue of AlumNECC Magazine—arriving in homes in late May— will profile one nursing graduate from each of the five decades of the program as well as an incoming student.

We have also created the hashtag #NECCNursing50 to celebrate this 50th anniversary and we will be sharing news and stories over the next few months and encourage you to share yours.

If you are a graduate of Northern Essex’s Nursing Program or know of a dedicated graduate, please share your stories.  You can do that by submitting a form, emailing the Alumni Office at; or sharing your story with the hashtag ##NECCNursing50 on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.