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Zipporah Parks Hammond, BS ’46


Remembering Zipporah Parks Hammond: CU Nursing’s First African-American Graduate

Author Katelyn Nolan | Publish Date February 25, 2019

Zipporah Parks Hammond (1924-2011), BS ’46, was the University of Colorado College of Nursing’s first African-American graduate, overcoming the oppressive restrictions that kept black women of her era from pursuing higher education. Zipporah was a humanitarian and civil-rights champion, trailblazer, educator, volunteer, historical and cultural preservationist, mentor, philanthropist and a role model whose contributions to Colorado are both substantial and noteworthy.

She was born on March 1, 1924, the only child of William Edward Parks and Zipporah Marcella Joseph.

“Little Zipporah” and later known as “Zippy” attended Denver’s Whittier Elementary, Morey Junior High, and Manual Training High Schools. Zipporah was accepted to the CU School of Nursing in 1941 in a class of 30. She participated in The Cadet Nurse Corps when it was established in 1943. Despite the many challenges society placed in her path, Zipporah was the first black to graduate from a nursing program in Colorado.

Zipporah’s college experiences and graduation from CU established significant ties to the school and strengthened her resolve to make a difference for others.

At age 22, Zipporah started her nursing career as a surgical operating-room nurse at Colorado General Hospital in Denver. Later that same year, Zipporah was appointed Chief Surgical Nurse for the Infantile Paralysis Unit of the Andrew Memorial Hospital at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Unfortunately, late in 1947, Zipporah contracted tuberculosis, which abbreviated her nursing career.

Despite the setback, Zipporah’s life-long goal to work in the medical field and serve others remained intact. After nearly two years in the National Jewish Health in Denver recovering from tuberculosis, she supplemented her nursing credentials with a medical records librarian certification in 1951. Her abbreviated-yet-productive nursing career evolved into a rich 30-year career as a Medical Records Librarian serving in a leadership role. In 1953, at age 29, Zipporah became Director of Medical Records at what is now Presbyterian/St Luke’s Medical Center, the first minority to hold such a leadership position in Denver (and believed to be the first in Colorado).

During her hospitalization, Zipporah met Sheldon Hammond, also a TB patient. They were married in 1952 and later became parents of two sons, Stephen and Darrell.

“Zipporah lived her life in a way that exemplifies the empathy and passion that nurses and medical professionals bring to their work today. She also believed in volunteerism and philanthropy. She helped train medical interns and contributed her time and financial resources to organizations and causes intended to improve the human condition,” said Steve, one of Zipporah’s sons. “The CU College of Nursing is preparing women and men to serve society and provide medical care for those in need.”

Zipporah Parks Hammond shaped and enriched Colorado history. In 2012, the Zipporah Parks Hammond Memorial Nursing Scholarship endowment fund was established at CU in her honor and memory. Zipporah passed away in 2011 (age 87).

Contributed by:

Katelyn Nolan | College of Nursing
Ashley Blubaugh | Office of Advancement
Katherine Sylvestre | College of Nursing