Summer 2016

A commanding presence

Clara Adams-Ender being sworn in as chief of the Army Nurse Corps, September 1987
Photo courtesy CLara Adams-Ender

It’s a long road from tending tobacco fields in North Carolina to being named one of the 350 women who changed the world by Working Woman magazine, but General Clara L. Adams-Ender, ’69 M.S., has always defied convention.

The daughter of sharecroppers and the fourth of 10 children, Adams-Ender wanted to study law but went into nursing at her father’s urging. She earned a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees on Army scholarships and embarked on a remarkable 34-year military career.

Highlights of Adams-Ender’s career include being promoted to brigadier general; overseeing 22,000 nurses as chief of the Army Nurse Corps; and being the first Army nurse to command a major Army base, which involved managing 12,000 people and a budget of $90 million.

After retiring, Adams-Ender spent 15 years as president of Caring about People with Enthusiasm, a management consulting firm. She also wrote a book. Now focused on “shoring up” her legacy, she recently committed a bequest of $2 million to the University of Minnesota. “The U was instrumental in my earning a master’s and moving on to executive positions,” she says. The Clara Adams-Ender Endowed Leadership Chair will support a dean at the School of Nursing.

To honor her for her accomplishments, Adams-Ender was named grand marshal for the U of M's 2016 Homecoming parade on October 22.