High School Library Named for Distinguished Nurse

High School Library Named for Distinguished Nurse photo

Approximately 150 people came out to Amityville Memorial High School on Dec. 10 to pay tribute to an American hero and a local legend. The library media center was renamed in honor of Major Nancy Leftenant-Colón, who had a distinguished career as a nurse in the United States armed forces and in Amityville.

Major Leftenant-Colón was born in 1920 and graduated from Amityville Memorial High School in 1939. She became the first member of her family to pursue higher education by attending the Lincoln School of Nursing in New York City. Her military nursing career spanned from 1945 to 1965, including service as an elite flight nurse with the Air Force. She made history as the first African-American woman to serve in the Army nursing corps, and later as the first woman to become president of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.

From 1971 to 1984, Major Leftenant-Colón was the nurse at Amityville Memorial High School. She became an inspirational figure for students with her well-known line, “The sky’s the limit.”

“It is an honor to welcome home Major Leftenant-Colón,” Superintendent Dr. Mary T. Kelly said in her opening remarks. “She is one of Amityville’s own. She taught students to believe in themselves and believe in their dreams. She is fondly remembered by Amityville alumni.”

Lt. Gen. Stayce D. Harris, inspector general of the Air Force, said the library dedication was an “incredible and most-deserved honor” for Major Leftenant-Colón. She presented her with an artistic piece that blended two photos together on a canvas  — one from Leftenant-Colón’s time as a major, and another of the two women together in 2009. 

Col. Ralph Smith, retired from the Air Force, presented a gold coin, one of only four in existence, commemorating the Tuskegee Airmen and Airwomen to be housed in the rededicated library. Dr. Kelly explained that as part of the upcoming project to renovate and expand the high school, the library media center will be updated and will include a display for Major Leftenant-Colón featuring numerous artifacts.

 

Retired Army Lt. Col. Jacqueline A. Gordon, spoke of the path that Major Leftenant-Colón paved for women in the armed forces. Lenore Braithewaite, of American Legion Hunter Squires Jackson Post 1218 in Amityville, fondly recalled her former school nurse and presented Major Leftenant-Colón with the American Legion’s 100th anniversary commander’s pin.

Several elected officials presented Major Leftenant-Colón with proclamations included Gordon, a Town of Babylon councilwoman, Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory and state Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre.

Keynote speaker Chaplain Joanne Bedford Boyd, spoke highly of her aunt and how she has always been a role model for young people. She cited Major Leftenant-Colón’s desire to succeed and achieve her dreams, and her refusal to back down from challenges. 

Chaplain Boyd explained the value that Major Leftenant-Colón has always placed on education, so it is fitting to have the school’s center of knowledge — the library media center — named in her honor.

Following presentations in the cafeteria, all guests were invited up to the library to see the new dedication sign along with pictures of Major Leftenant-Colón from her military service and her years as high school nurse. Student Council members presented Major Leftenant-Colón with flowers, and there were musical performances by the Amityville Memorial High School jazz ensemble and Edmund W. Miles Middle School ninth-grade string ensemble.