Rebecca Plotkin Eden, RN, BSN '49
2012 Alumni Association President's Award:
Rebecca Plotkin Eden has devoted her life to family, service, and country. A first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps during World War II, a leading Ohio nursing educator who served as president of the Ohio Board of Nursing, and a widow and mother who raised four successful children as a single parent, Mrs. Eden exemplifies the best of “The Greatest Generation” and the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.
A graduate of Cleveland’s Glenville High School in 1940, Mrs. Eden satisfied her childhood dream of becoming a nurse when she graduated in 1943 from St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing in Cleveland. Mrs. Eden then enlisted in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. First Lieutenant Rebecca Eden was stationed at Wakeman Hospital at Camp Atterbury, Indiana from 1944-1946. There, she opened the first tropical diseases ward and served as its head nurse, caring for German POWs and wounded American soldiers.
After an honorable discharge from the Army Nurse Corps in 1946 and with the help of the GI Bill, Mrs. Eden enrolled at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Western Reserve University and earned a BSN degree in 1949. Immediately after graduation, Mrs. Eden became a nursing educator at St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing in Cleveland.
In 1949, she married Michael J. Eden, a former sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Force and Case Institute of Technology graduate, and they started a family. In 1959, then the mother of four young children, Mrs. Eden’s husband passed away from a service-connected disability. As a young widow and mother, she set about to raise her family and further her career.
With her BSN, Mrs. Eden was hired by the Cleveland Municipal School System to teach at the Jane Addams School of Practical Nursing, a post-high school vocational education program. She spent 27 years at Jane Addams School and ultimately served as its director for 14 years. She was a pioneer in her own ‘Welfare to Work’ program as she actively recruited underprivileged women and men, inspiring them to make nursing a career. She also served as the financial aid officer and championed an educational environment in which her students could receive a solid nursing education, give back to the community, and become self-sufficient. During her career at Jane Addams School, Mrs. Eden helped more than three thousand women and men earn practical nursing diplomas and prepared them for licensure testing. Many of her students furthered their nursing education and became registered nurses, educators, and leaders in their field.
In 1976, Mrs. Eden was appointed to the Ohio Board of Nursing Education and Nurse Registration. She served for ten years and was its president for two years, from 1978-1980. In 1982, Mrs. Eden received a Veterans Affairs Commendation for helping veterans pursue educational goals. She served on many local, regional, and national nursing advisory and accreditation committees and was a sought-after speaker on nursing education across the country. Mrs. Eden retired from Jane Addams School of Practical Nursing in 1985. In 2008, because of her service to her country and to her community, Mrs. Eden was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame – one of the few women to be so honored. In 2010, Mrs. Eden was presented with the Distinguished Alumna Award from St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing in Cleveland. In July 2012, in recognition of her 90th birthday, Mrs. Eden represented Cleveland’s World War II veterans when she threw out the first pitch at the Independence Day celebration game for the Cleveland Indians.