Foundation News Archive

Half A Century Later

  • November 22, 2010
  • Number of views: 738

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps. Alan Shepard became the first American to rocket into space. The American Medical Association endorsed the Sabin oral vaccine, which would eventually help wipe out polio throughout most of the world. And two new graduates of the Barnes Hospital School of Nursing and Jewish Hospital School of Nursing, now combined as Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College, began their journey into what has become a lifelong passion.

A Special Closeness

Penny Bari, Barnes Hospital School of Nursing Class of ’61, and Brenda Ernst, Jewish Hospital School of Nursing Class of ’61, are not exaggerating when they say that nursing school was their entire world when they were students.

“All of us were right out of high school, we had to live in the dormitory together, and we weren’t allowed to get married,” recalls Brenda.

“My classmates and I had a weeknight curfew of 9 p.m. unless we were in our clinical training, which consisted of staffing our hospital at night,” says Penny. “There were no registered nurses on staff at those hours, only one or two nurses’ assistants. We students had to learn together how to quickly make judgments. Experience is a huge teacher!”

Making Patient Care Better in St. Louis

After graduation, Brenda went to work at the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis and stayed for 36 years, through its merger into Barnes-Jewish Hospital, until her retirement in 1998. She served 20 of those years as vice president for nursing.

Penny worked for four years at Barnes Hospital before marrying and taking a break to raise her two sons. After returning to Barnes in 1977, she held many roles, including head nurse in the telemetry and cardiac units, assistant head nurse in the pulmonary intensive care unit, and supervisor and clinical director of medical nursing, until her retirement in 1999.

“A Personal Investment in People”

Penny and Brenda believe deeply in supporting scholarships to strengthen the nursing profession. They both were able to attend nursing school because of scholarships and, ultimately, they both earned master’s degrees. Brenda established and continues to support the Brenda Ernst Nursing Education Endowment Fund to help Goldfarb students earn the degrees they need to be quality health care providers of the future.

“If my scholarship can help in any way to recruit new nurses as we face a severe nursing shortage…if I can help one student the way I was helped…that makes me happy,” she says.

Penny supports students in need through the Elizabeth McIntosh Scholarship Fund, which is named in honor of the first director of Barnes Hospital School of Nursing.

“I’ll always remember Elizabeth McIntosh in her starched white uniform and cap,” she says. “I admired her for the way she took a personal interest in each of us students. Her inspiration is why I’m committed to supporting the scholarship named for her—it’s a personal investment in people.”

Caring Enough to Make a Difference

Though “retired,” Penny and Brenda are living proof that nursing is a lifelong career.

“I’ve enjoyed remaining active in nursing education as a past member of the Jewish Hospital School of Nursing Alumni Association and a current member of the Goldfarb School of Nursing Board of Trustees,” Brenda says.

She also volunteers with the American Association of University Women, an organization that provides women with scholarships.

Penny provides blood pressure screenings at her church, volunteers for a program that screens underserved older adults for osteoporosis and depression, and has served as a team nurse on mission trips to Russia and Haiti. She is also a volunteer “patient” for nurse practitioner students at Goldfarb who are learning and practicing new diagnostic skills.

“No matter where life takes me, I will always be a nurse,” Penny says.

Hope for the Future

It is Brenda’s greatest hope that every student who receives her scholarship is as happy and satisfied with nursing as she was.

“I want my students to find their way in life. That’s what I found with my career in nursing,” she says.

As Penny hears from classmates while helping to plan her reunion, she is struck by the diversity of their careers made possible by their nursing education.

“Some are presidents and CEOs of hospitals,” she says. “Some are teachers and nurses who have chosen to stay by the bedside. Every single one demonstrates that our school has a rich heritage that endures. I hope the students who receive the scholarship I support find their nursing careers just as meaningful.”

To hear directly from Penny and Brenda about why it is so important to give to scholarships at Goldfarb School of Nursing, please see their video at

To support scholarships at Goldfarb School of Nursing, please give to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation's Goldfarb School of Nursing Scholarship Fund (#0374) by clicking “Donate Now” above. If you have questions, or would like to hear about starting your own scholarship fund or donating to other funds, please call David Sandler at 314-362-3499 or e-mail

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