Millikin School of Nursing’s ‘Legacy of the Lamp’ Ceremony Honors Nursing’s Past and Future

The annual Homecoming event pays tribute to Florence Nightingale and Millikin's future nurses.

Legacy of the Lamp

DECATUR, Ill. – There was once a time when the field of nursing didn’t have a remarkable reputation. Healthcare in the 19th century had not yet taken a huge technological advancement, and clean, sterile medical environments were impossible to find. 

The revolution that came in nursing was led by Florence Nightingale, who rebelled against traditional roles for women in the 1840s and 50s and became the mother of modern nursing. 

She knew she would not be satisfied with the expectations of marriage and family. She wanted to serve others and address human suffering and found her calling and passion in nursing,” Millikin Interim Director of the School of Nursing Dr. Teresa Gulley said.

Legacy of the Lamp
"The Lady with the Lamp" by Henrietta Rae, 1891. 

Nightingale’s service during the Crimean War became the stuff of legend, and she became known as the “Lady of the Lamp” as she monitored her patients at all hours in the dark of night. That image has become a cornerstone of nursing education, and Millikin’s School of Nursing uses Nightingale’s good works as a touchstone during the annual “Legacy of the Lamp” ceremony that honors future nurses as they reach the halfway point in their clinical coursework. 

“Florence Nightingale believed that we should give the very best education for those called to the vocation of nursing. This lamp symbolizes your commitment to face the adversity that professional nursing will bring at times,” Gulley said. “I wish that each of you discover in yourself the courage and compassion that Florence Nightingale brought to this wonderful profession. May you always be guided by the lamp in the dark.” 

Legacy of the Lamp
Millikin School of Nursing’s 2023 Distinguished Alumnus Dr. Valerie Wright MSN ’09. 

This year’s “Legacy of the Lamp” ceremony took place at Westminster Presbyterian Church during Millikin’s Homecoming celebration on Sept. 29, and each Nursing student honored received a replica of Nightingale’s famous lamp. The School of Nursing’s 2023 Distinguished Alumnus, Dr. Valerie Wright MSN ’09, delivered a keynote address and touched on how each part of the lamp is a critical component of nursing. 

Legacy of the Lamp

“The lamp represents the warmth of caring, and the light represents striving for excellence,” Wright said. “The oil represents the energy and commitment of the nurse to heal others. May your light shine brightly for those that you care for.”

Although Nightingale’s story is more than 150 years old, it is still relevant for current Nursing students. 

“I think the Florence Nightingale story still resonates with us. Many nursing programs make it a point that the students know and be aware of who she was and what she did, especially at the entry-level of the program,” Millikin junior Nursing major Isabel Vincent said. 

Legacy of the Lamp
Millikin junior Nursing major Isabel Vincent (right) receives a Florence Nightingale lamp. 

With the second half of her clinical coursework ahead of her, Vincent feels Millikin has prepared her for her future career. 

“I think it is a great opportunity for Millikin to do this for students because this is such a tough program. I think it is motivating to have something like this halfway through,” Vincent said. “I still have a lot to learn and a lot to do, but so far, I feel like this program has set me up to be successful no matter what specialty I want to pursue.”