Capping ceremony, 1947. Ms. Morgan is in the center of the front row. (photo courtesy of Duke Medical Archives)

“Evelyn gave nurses a place, ‘not behind, always in front,’ to advocate for oncology patients.  She developed the first guidelines for oncology patients for the treatment of mucositis and stomatitis. Evelyn was very proud of that. She always remembered her patients, their families, their birthdays, etc. She took exceptional, personal care of each and every patient.”  — Evelyn Nicholson, retired Nurse Clinician, Duke Surgical Oncology

Evelyn Morgan, MSN, RN, for whom the Duke University Health System Friends of Nursing Program’s annual “Evelyn Morgan Award for Excellence in Oncology Nursing Practice” (since 1983) was named, passed away on Sept. 10 (2019) in Lilburn, Georgia. She was 96.

Born in Salisbury, North Carolina, in 1923, she would become the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center’s first Chief Oncology Nurse. She retired in 1988.

Evelyn D. Morgan, MSN, RN

After graduating from Catawba College with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Ms. Morgan (as she was known by all who knew her) went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing degree at Duke University School of Nursing, then did post-graduate work at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. She returned to Duke as a clinical nurse specialist in cancer research.

Ms. Morgan assembled a small group of nurses who worked to implement cancer treatment research protocols at the center. Through the years, she also helped train nurses who entered this new field for the first time.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared war on cancer. In 1973, the cancer center at Duke was one of eight centers to be designated a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute.

Through the years, Ms. Morgan, working with me and many other medical colleagues, helped plan and bring to fruition multidisciplinary cancer clinics for each cancer specialty within the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center (later called Duke Cancer Institute). The idea was that a new patient would be seen by a team of physicians — a surgeon, a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, and possibly others — before a course of treatment was recommended. This was, at the time, a new concept in cancer patient care. Today it’s standard.

In 1975, Ms. Morgan was asked to participate in the formation of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS).  She requested permission to travel to Pittsburgh for the society’s first meeting. There was a question about whether there would be sufficient national interest in this new field of nursing. Today, there are more than 35,000 members of the Society. Their work has transformed the care of patients with cancer, thanks to the initiatives of pioneers like Ms. Morgan.

Because of her loyal service to the cancer center and the loving care she gave to her patients, the DUHS Friends of Nursing Endowment Fund named and supported an award in her honor in 1993 — the “Evelyn Morgan Award for Excellence in Oncology Nursing Practice” — bestowed annually ever since to an outstanding oncology nurse.

In her free time, Ms. Morgan loved to sing. She sang in glee clubs and choruses in school. While at Duke she sang in the Duke Chapel Choir. Her interest in history led her to join the Durham Preservation Society. Another love was the church. She was a member of the Duke Memorial United Methodist Church during her years in Durham.

A memorial service will be held at Sunrise at Five Forks in Lilburn, GA, on Oct. 4 at 1:30 p.m. and a private burial will take place in Salisbury, NC, on Oct. 6. Condolences may be sent or viewed at

Ms. Susan Wilkin, Evelyn Morgan’s niece, also contributed to this article.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Duke Cancer Institute blog on Oct. 2, 2019.

Learn More

Read a 1969 article, which features Ms. Morgan, in The Intercom Duke Medicine’s primary news publication from 1953 to 1986.

The DUHS Friends of Nursing (FON) Program honored Evelyn Morgan and her legacy at their 2017 Nursing Gala

“Evelyn was one of the earliest Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) at Duke. She always put patients first and ‘taught’ many oncology and hematology fellows what patient-centered care was.”  — Brenda Nevidjon, Chief Executive Officer, ONS, MSN, RN, FAAN

“Miss Morgan was instrumental in organizing the multidisciplinary clinics in Surgical Oncology while still fulfilling her HN position on Jordan Ward.”  — Dr. Hilliard Seigler

Ms. Morgan’s impact on Duke Nursing

  • Became the 1st Oncology Nurse Clinician at Duke in the 1970s
  • Leader for oncology patient treatment protocols and was part of the research team
  • Provided leadership and mentored many nurses and residents to improve the quality of nursing care for oncology patients at Duke
  • Provided leadership for the construction of the Morris Cancer Building and RN staffing mode

Nursing professional:  1947-1988

~ 1948 – 1949    Duke SON and Hanes Ward
~1958 – 1967     Duke Head Nurse Minot Ward
~1968 – 1970     Duke Research Nurse
~1971 – 1988     Oncology Nurse Clinician on Jordan Ward and Oncology Clinics


Sigma Theta Tau – National Nursing Honor Society


Catawba College, Bachelor of Arts Degree (1944)
Duke University School of Nursing, BSN (1947)
Duke University School of Nursing, MSN (1972)