Tribute to Nelly Garzón Alarcón

Jane Palmer | 04/29/2019

Colombian nurse leader was a founder of Upsilon Nu Chapter and a regional coordinator.

Hester C. Klopper, Nelly Garzon Alarcon, Patricia Thompson

A visionary, charismatic leader, she taught and mentored students at the National University of Colombia and made significant contributions to Sigma and ICN.

Nelly Garzón AlarcónNelly Garzón Alarcón, MSN, RN, founding member of Upsilon Nu Chapter at the National University of Colombia and first regional coordinator for Sigma’s Latin America/Caribbean Region, died 17 April 2019.

She received Sigma’s Nell J. Watts Lifetime Achievement in Nursing Award in 2015 for her dedication to nursing and her work in engaging members and establishing chapters in her region.

“Nelly has been a strong supporter of Sigma for so many years," says Sigma President Beth Tigges. “Her death is a loss for Upsilon Nu Chapter, Colombia, the Latin America/Caribbean region—and for the global nursing community. She was a mentor to many and inspired nurses to take on leadership roles in Sigma. We will miss her.” 

Lorena Chaparro, Karen Morin, Nelly Garzon“Dr. Nelly Garzón Alarcón was the driving force behind the creation of Upsilon Nu Chapter,” says Karen Morin, PhD, RN, ANEF, FAAN. As Sigma’s president-elect in 2008, Morin served as the chapter’s chartering officer. “She was an incredible visionary who excelled at bringing people along on her journey. Most importantly, she was a caring, compassionate woman whose energy was contagious. She will be sorely missed by all.”

Garzón was both mentor and friend to Lorena Chaparro Diaz, PhD, associate professor at the National University of Colombia School of Nursing. Garzón encouraged her to grow professionally with Sigma by serving on the Leadership Succession Committee and as the second president of Upsilon Nu. Chaparro currently serves as regional coordinator for the Latin America/Caribbean Region.

Rafael Pineda-Perdomo, Lorena Chaparro, Nelly Garzon, Yolanda GonzalezShe remembers Garzón as a visionary leader who was loving, charismatic, fair, organized, and persistent—and who sowed the seed of nursing knowledge. Chaparro views Upsilon Nu Chapter as an important piece of her mentor’s legacy.

“Nelly was a mentor to a lot of Colombian and Latin-American nurses in ethics and bioethics, graduate programs, curriculum, nursing process and theory, leadership, political issues, human rights, and other areas,” Chaparro says.

Garzón’s mentees include Rafael Pineda-Perdomo, RN. As an undergraduate at the National University of Colombia, he learned about her in a nursing history course and was inspired by her dedication and passion. When he finally had the opportunity to meet her, he felt shy at first because of her exemplary career.

“I do not remember exactly what we talked about,” Pineda-Perdomo says. “What I do know is that I expressed my admiration and fascination for her work. I did not think I would get to know someone like Nelly. It was a blast.

“I was happy every time I saw her, and the feeling was mutual,” Pineda-Perdomo adds. “We talked about how I was doing in my studies, and I asked her where she was going to travel or where she had been invited to give lectures. No one has inspired me more than her.”

With Alyce SchultzGarzón’s distinguished career also included serving as president of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) from 1985–89. The first ICN president from South America, she chose the watchword “justice” for her term as president.

“It is touching that Dr. Garzón should leave us in this year when ICN is celebrating the theme Nurses: A Voice to Lead Health for All,” ICN noted in its tribute. In 1988, she received the Health for All Medal from the World Health Organization (WHO) for her leadership and for ICN’s contribution to achieving goals WHO had established. It was the first time the organization had awarded the medal to a nurse. 

Garzón was a nursing professor at the National University of Colombia until 2006. The university awarded her a Doctor Honoris Causa in 2011 in honor of her contributions to nursing. 

Chartering ceremony of Upsilon Nu.
Nelly Garzon, Afaf Meleis, Natividad Pinto
Natividad Pinto Afanador, Nelly Garzón Alarcón, Margie Wilson, and Lorena Chaparro Diaz
Upsilon Nu Chapter members
Jane Palmer
is assistant editor of
Reflections on Nursing Leadership.
  • Rafael Pineda-Perdomo
  • Lorena Chaparro
  • Lorena Chaparro Diaz
  • ICN
  • International Council of Nurses
  • Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society of Nursing
  • Sigma
  • Karen Morin
  • Latin America/Caribbean Region
  • National University of Colombia
  • Upsilon Nu Chapter
  • Nelly Garzón Alarcón
  • RNL Feature
  • Nurse Faculty
  • ClinicalC
  • Nurse Leader
  • Nursing Student
  • Nurse Researcher
  • RNL
  • Clinician
  • Nurse Educator
  • Educator
  • Nursing Faculty
  • Nurse Clinician
  • Nurse Researchers
  • Nursing Student
  • Global - Middle East
  • Global - Oceania
  • Global - Europe
  • Global - Africa
  • Global - Asia
  • Global - Latin America
  • Global - North America
  • Hester Klopper, Nelly Garzon Alarcon, Patricia Thompson