Nursing education pioneer Dr. Vera E. Dewar passes away

Dewar received UPEI honorary degree in 2003
Friday, March 8, 2019

The University of Prince Edward Island lost a great friend and champion in Dr. Vera E. Dewar, CM OPEI BN LLD RN, who passed away on March 5, 2019 in Charlottetown.

In a message to the campus community, Dr. Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, President and Vice-Chancellor of UPEI said, "I was so inspired by Dr. Dewar's passion for nursing. She truly was one of the pioneers who advocated for university-level education for nurses, and her efforts contributed to the opening of the UPEI School of Nursing in 1992. This resulted in PEI becoming the first province in Canada to set the baccalaureate degree as the entry level for nursing."

He added, "After retiring, she continued to support nursing education on Prince Edward Island through advocacy, mentorship, and philanthropy. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Master of Nursing program at UPEI in 2012 and contributed significantly to the construction of the Health Sciences Building, the home of the Faculty of Nursing, where the Dr. Vera E. Dewar Learning Resource Centre bears her name. She also established the Dr. Vera Elizabeth Dewar Graduate Nursing Scholarship for UPEI graduates pursuing masters’ or doctoral degrees in nursing. On behalf of the entire UPEI community, I pass on my most sincere sympathies to Dr. Dewar’s brothers, Dr. Charles (Frances) Dewar and Preston (Georgina) Dewar, and sister-in-law Flora Dewar."

Dr. Dewar was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws from UPEI in 2003, was named to the Order of Canada (CM) in 2011 and Order of PEI (OPEI) in 2013, and was awarded the Queen's Jubilee Medal in 2012.

The flags at the University have been lowered to half-mast in Dr. Dewar’s memory. Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Maclean’s Funeral Home. Below is excerpt from Dr. Dewar's honorary degree citation.


Vera Dewar (or Miss Dewar, as she is affectionately known to many former students and colleagues) was raised on the family farm in Brudenell. After high school, Vera was too young to enter the nursing program, so she taught Grade 1–10 in a one-room school for a couple of years. Then she enrolled at the PEI Hospital School of Nursing, graduating in 1956 and, two years later, she obtained her Diploma in Teaching and Supervision in Schools of Nursing from Dalhousie University. In 1967, Vera obtained her Bachelor of Nursing degree from Dalhousie University. Miss Dewar's impressive career in nursing education on the Island spans more than four decades. She has held positions from clinical instructor to Assistant Director of Administration at the PEI School of Nursing, a post she held until its closure in 1994.

Miss Dewar truly loved her career. For her, nursing was not just a job—it was her life. Over the years, Vera has exemplified leadership in nursing education to hundreds of students and countless nursing colleagues. Vera's expectations of excellence have made a significant impact on nursing education and nursing practice in Prince Edward Island and the many parts of the world where our graduates have lived and worked. Her leadership role also extends to that of mentorship. Over her many years of involvement in nursing education, Vera has encouraged and supported numerous graduates and colleagues—always challenging them to strive for excellence in nursing education and nursing practice.

In addition to her professional career, however, Vera has dedicated much of her adult life to cultural preservation on PEI. In honour of her mother, who had a great love for culture and genealogy, Vera spent many hours with friends working to compile the manuscript for the book called “Perthshire to Three Rivers”, which includes the names of more than 14,000 descendants of the Brudenell River area.

Nicole Phillips
Acting Director
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