Oretta Mae Todd, Ph.D.
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Oretta Mae Todd

Nurse and Dean

Highland Park Community College Nursing Program


Dr. Oretta Mae Todd, Ph.D
Dr. Oretta Todd was born to Otha Mae Johnson and Daniel Samuel Davis on June 3, 1933 in Detroit Michigan. After graduating from Pershing High School in 1950, Dr. Todd applied to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, because it offered a bachelors degree in nursing. Upon being accepted, she wrote the college asking whether they realized she was a black woman. The college told her that her color did not matter; she enrolled in Skidmore and completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1954. While at Skidmore, she helped to start the campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Following graduation in 1954 and a four month public health training tour in New York City, Dr. Todd returned to Detroit because of her desire to work within the African American community. She had worked summers at Burton Mercy (then Wayne Diagnostic) Hospital while she was a student, and returned to work there full-time. Between 1956 and 1963, Dr. Todd worked at Detroit Receiving and Highland Park General hospitals, but continued to work part-time at Burton Mercy because she loved working there. In 1963, she received an M.A. in nursing from Wayne State University and then entered New York University and earned a certificate in midwifery. Upon completing her training at New York University, she was asked by the dean at Wayne State to become an instructor at the nursing school. In 1964, she began teaching for Wayne State University and worked at Hutzel (then Woman's) Hospital.

In 1970, Dr. Todd left Wayne State University and went to work at Kirwood Hospital for a few years prior to its closing. Four years later, she became the Dean of Nursing at Highland Park Community College. She worked in this position until 1994, shortly before the Highland Park Nursing Program closed.

Dr. Todd received her Ph.D. in higher education, with a major in community college administration, from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 1986. She has been involved in a number of professional and community organizations, such as Chi Eta Phi, the NAACP, the Detroit Urban League, and the Afro-American Museum Development Committee (currently known as the Museum of African American History) where she served as their first secretary.

Tape recorded interview;
Detroit, MI
1 May  1997
audio clip
The following excerpt illustrates Individual counter-actions made against segregation in "white" institutions:

"When I got through with that experience and I actually started working on staff at Hutzel [Hospital] while I was waiting for students to come, I decided that I was going to put blacks and whites wherever they had to be--I wasn't going to keep them upstairs in labor and delivery--I mean in the recovery room. So, I assigned them a room as long as...you'd have what rooms are available. I just pulled them and sent them down there. I made the mistake...Dr. S. had this very, very important lady from Grosse Pointe. I put her in a room and then when the next patient came in and they had "semi-private", I put her in the same room. Dr. S. happened to come in that evening and he said, "Who did this? I don't mix my patients with blacks!" So he came flying up to labor and delivery. I said, "I did Dr. S." I said, "The two patients got along real well and I saw no reason to let your patient be alone when she was associating with this other patient up in recovery." Oh, he was furious with me! But, because I was black, he didn't do anything, but I think he said something to somebody else. So when Dr. [Charles] Wright came up I said, "You know Dr. Wright, I don't think Dr. S. is happy with me, I mixed the patients." He said, "Good!" That was the first time they had actually mixed racial groups there."


William G. Anderson
Reginald P. Ayala
Arthur W Boddie
Wilma Brakefield-Caldwell
Henry C. Bryant Jr.
Alice Burton
Waldo L. Cain
James W. Collins
Claude and Vivienne Cooper
Gladys B. Dillard
George Gaines Jr.
Leon Gant
Herman J. Glass Sr.
Della Goodwin
Joseph B. Harris
Frank P. Iacobell
Horace L. Jefferson
Sidney B. Jenkins
Arthur Johnson
Rachel B. Keith
William E. Lawson
Josephine Love
Hayward Maben Jr.
Berna C. Mason
Suesetta T. McCree
Dorothy Mottley
David C. Northcross Jr.
Ophelia B. Northcross
Marjorie Peebles-Meyers
Frank P. Raiford III
Garther Roberson Jr.
S. L. Roberson
Elsie Smith
Fannie L. Starks
Lionel F. Swan
Natalia M. Tanner
Oretta Mae Todd
I. Clara Webb
Charles F. Whitten
Charles H. Wright
Watson Young


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Copyright , Kellogg African American Health Care Project, 2000.
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