A special garden dedication ceremony in the Tower at STAR on June 20 celebrated the impact of Jane Maroney, Muriel Gilman and Kitty Esterly, whose hard work, advocacy and support have left a tangible imprint on the College of Health Sciences. The ceremony was attended by about 100 people in the atrium of the Tower at STAR, including Jane Maroney, Gilman’s daughter, Martha Gilman, and Esterly’s niece, Susan Freitas. The event featured the first unveiling of a garden plaque honoring the three visionary women. 

“These three women are dreamers and they helped us to dream this. This space here is really an expression of their dreams and their mission,” Dean Kathleen S. Matt said in remarks during the unveiling. “The importance of this garden that we are creating is to remind our students about what they are studying and what they are destined to do.” 

Gilman, Esterly and Maroney are known for their dedication to the community, albeit in different ways. Maroney, who thanked everyone in attendance at the event, served 20 years as a member of the Delaware General Assembly. Gilman, who passed away in 2011, worked for 23 years at the United Way of Delaware before spending her later years working as a consultant for the School of Nursing to increase fundraising and student enrollment. Esterly, who passed away in 2014, was Delaware’s first neonatologist and is roundly credited with doing more than anyone to positively impact the health of the state’s tiniest residents. 

Former College of Health Sciences Dean Betty Paulanka recalled Gilman’s quiet leadership as being the driving force behind her successful campaign to raise $1 million for the School of Nursing. “Muriel’s special smile and bond with people made it difficult to tell her no because they knew what she asked was of great value,” Paulanka said. 

As a physician, Esterly’s views on the role of nurses in medicine carried additional significance. She was a strong advocate for the role of nurse practitioners in helping improve community health, particularly at the pediatric level. 

“We really were very different,” Maroney, 95, told the crowd. “Kitty was fierce,” she added. “If you told her you were doing your best, she’d say your best isn’t good enough.” 

The three remained fierce advocates, promoting the School of Nursing as well as advancing opportunities for nurses to take a more active role in the clinical care of their patients. That passion served the College of Health Sciences well, Matt said.  

“These three women all along have continued to say, ‘What’s next, Let’s keep going, It’s not done yet,” she added.  “We will continue to inspire others with their kind of energy.” 

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