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Ellis opens new school of nursing

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Albany/HV: Ellis opens new school of nursing
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It took years of work behind the scenes, a legal battle and a state Attorney General's investigation, but finally, a new nursing school has opened at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady. YNN's Geoff Redick has more on all the twists and turns that led to the ribbon cutting at that new school.

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- "More than 2,700 nurses have graduated from the School of Nursing and cared for our community and communities across the country, for generations."

The journey to get here…

"Oh, it's a terrific day, particularly for nursing education in our community and the School of Nursing, which has such a wonderful tradition," said James Connolly, Ellis Medicine President and CEO.

….A journey not measured in time so much as tireless dedication.

"It has been a long journey, but I'm here! And that's wonderful," said Norma Lyons, niece of John and Anna Belanger.

For 110 years, Ellis Hospital in Schenectady has replenished its ranks by teaching men and women the science of nursing. But for the last 39 of those years, nursing instruction took place in locations away from Ellis Hospital. And it finally ended up at the Belanger Campus on Erie Boulevard in Schenectady, a full mile-and-a-half from the Ellis Hospital Campus.

Named for the late John and Anna Belanger, who left a multi-million dollar legacy fund to grow the nursing school. But that fund was found to be spent elsewhere by the hospital over a 35 year span, according to the findings, uncovered in a state Attorney General's audit.

Connolly said, "I think the case you refer to, it goes back to some people who thought, 'Well, the fund could have been managed differently over the years.'"

A subsequent state order forced the school back onto hospital grounds and required that the hospital help pay for the move.

"And so now we finally have our own space on campus," said nursing instructor Joann Dixon.

A1974 graduate, Dixon is one of those nurses who learned her job outside hospital grounds. Now an instructor in the program, she's happy to work back at home base.

"Oh I'm very proud of the new (facility) and for the Belanger family. I think it was their dream a long time ago and it's finally come true," Dixon said.

Norma Lyons is the surviving descendent of the Belanger family and doesn't like to speak about the scathing state investigation, nor the lawsuit bearing her name that sparked the controversy.

Lyons said, "No, I don't feel remorse. When I can't do something about a problem, I don't want to waste my energy."

But like any good nurse, under an oath of care, no matter the circumstances, there was Lyons at the end of her journey, cutting the ribbon on her family's school, hand in hand with the hospital they so loved.

"This is a very significant day and I am honored to be here for the opening of the new Belanger School of Nursing. Thank you," Lyons said.

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