Notes from the Dean's Desk
On Veterans Day, We Honor A Graduate and 'Angel of Bataan'
This Veterans Day is especially poignant for us at Jefferson College of Nursing as we honor one of our most distinguished graduates – a woman whose life of service and sacrifice is a model and inspiration for all of us. On November 7, alumni, students, staff and guests gathered at the new Dixon campus to learn about the remarkable journey of Madeline M. Ullom ’38, RN, LTC, USANC (Ret.).
Barely three years past graduation from what was then the nursing program within Thomas Jefferson Medical College, LTC Ullom, then a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, was swept up in some of the first fighting involving Americans in World War II. Stationed in the Philippines when Japan attacked as part of the larger offensive that included Pearl Harbor, she spent the following weeks treating wounded and dying solders as American forces were driven down the Bataan Peninsula. A final holdout on the island of Corregidor was followed by surrender in April 1942. Her valiant group of nurses is now remembered as “The Angels of Bataan.”
The U.S. capitulation launched almost three years of internment for LTC Ullom and thousands of other Americans—a period marked by sparse food, squalid living conditions, and many deaths among both military and civilian prisoners. In the Santo Tomas Internment Camp Hospital, LTC Ullom and other nurses labored to save as many as possible and never gave up hope. “I thought I knew what freedom was, but you don’t know what freedom is until you lose it, and the little everyday things you take for granted are no longer yours,” she would remark years later.
Liberation came in early 1945, but that was not the end of the war nor of LTC Ullom’s service to her country. She was promoted to first lieutenant and treated American GIs wounded in the fight to free the prisoners, and then stayed in the Army to complete a 28-year career, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. She lived in Arizona until her passing in 2001.
LTC Ullom earned two Bronze Stars, three Presidential Unit Citations, the POW medal, and numerous other citations. Following her retirement she supported veterans in many capacities and was honorary past National President of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society.
LTC Ullom received an honorary degree from Jefferson in 1998. During the November 7 event, it was revealed that she saved a memento from the award at Jefferson, placing it in a time capsule to be opened in 2023. Her diploma in nursing from Jefferson meant a great deal to her and she believed her education prepared her to "improvise" as best she could during captivity.
Having myself served in the U.S. Navy Reserve Nurse Corps it was a particular honor this year to help plan and conduct our Veterans Day observance honoring Madeline Ullom. Also on hand was Maggie, our four-year-old labrador retriever who serves as the college’s Chief Compassion Officer. Trained by veteran’s organization Leashes of Valor, Maggie reminds us of the courage it takes to serve one’s country, particularly during times of conflict.
The event at our Dixon Campus was hosted by the Office of Alumni Relations and the 1824 Society. As I told those who gathered, LTC Ullom was a fine example of what makes a Jefferson nurse. Jefferson nurses are prepared ‘for real’ and to lead from day one!