Elgin hospital honors retired nurse 71 years after rejecting her from school due to race

STREAMWOOD, Ill. (WLS) -- It is a full-circle moment.

Retired nurse Betty Brown, 90, was named honorary chief nursing officer from the same Elgin hospital that rejected her for nursing school 71 years ago because of her race.

"It gave me inspiration, because I thought, 'No one can tell me what I can or can't do,'" Brown said.

Instead, Brown got a nursing degree from a hospital in Joliet and years later, returned to Advocate Sherman Hospital for work. She said she never carried a grudge.

"Never become bitter. That destroys everything," Brown said. "I tried to keep a positive thought in my mind at all times."

She has dedicated her life to service as a nurse, volunteer, wife and mother. She has been married to retired WGN radio personality Floyd Brown for 66 years. In fact, Brown has been a trailblazer her entire life, even paving the way for the current Advocate Sherman Hospital president.

The honor for Brown comes during National Nurses Week, a time to thank nurses who have given so much, especially during the pandemic. But for Brown, it was just the first honor of the day. At a luncheon for the YWCA later, they are giving out an award named in her honor.

"I thank God every day," Brown said.

It's called the "Betty Brown Racial Justice Award." But Brown said she has never been concerned with awards. She has been focused on moving forward rather than looking back.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.