Laurie Gunter, former nursing department head, dies

Laurie Martin Gunter, professor emeritus of nursing and human development and former head of the Department of Nursing, died June 15 in Seattle, Washington.

Gunter joined the faculty of the former College of Human Development in 1971 after five years on the University of Washington faculty. She served as nursing department head from 1971 to 1976, overseeing several major changes and burgeoning enrollment. During that period, the department was moved from Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh to the University Park campus and the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center; the undergraduate curriculum was revamped; a graduate program was implemented; and an extended degree program in nursing (the first extended degree offered at Penn State) was started.

She also served as interim department head from 1984 to 1985 and was professor in charge of the graduate program for many years. She retired from Penn State in 1987 after 16 years of service.

A nationally respected researcher with a focus on nursing care of the elderly, she held Fellow status in the Gerontological Society of America and the American Academy of Nursing and was an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. She co-authored a book, "Education for Gerontic Nursing," and published many articles and book chapters.

Among Gunter's many accomplishments, she:

  • was an invited participant in the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health;
  • lectured and presented continuing education programs nationally and internationally, including a course in transcultural nursing for students in Montego Bay, Jamaica, that was reported as a model teaching method;
  • directed a professional nurse traineeship program at Penn State with funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for 14 years;
  • served as project director for the construction grant for the Health and Human Development East Building; and
  • initiated many program development grants for graduate and undergraduate education.

After her retirement, Gunter volunteered in the Seattle public schools and served on the visiting committee for the University of Washington School of Nursing. She was a member of Columbia Lakewood Community Church in Seattle.

She held a nursing diploma from Meharry Medical College, a bachelor of science in home economics from Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial University, a master of arts in education from Fisk University and a doctorate in human development from the University of Chicago.

Gunter is survived by two daughters, two granddaughters and three great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. July 9 at the Lakewood Seward Park Community Club in Seattle.

In lieu of flowers, contributions to the Laurie M. Gunter Research Fund in the College of Nursing are welcomed. The fund was established in Gunter's honor to provide funding for nursing students to conduct research. For more information, contact Susan Kukic, director of development and alumni relations, at 814-863-8180 or

Laurie Gunter served as head of the Department of Nursing from 1971 to 1976. She retired as professor emeritus in 1987. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated October 17, 2019