History & Legacy

1907: Burge Deaconess Training School for Nurses was established with the admission of three students. Miss Janie Campbell completed her last course on December 31, 1909, and records have her comprising the Class of January 1910. May 6, 1909, Missouri’s first licensure legislation was enacted and Miss Campbell’s license is dated August 8, 1910.

1924: The name was changed to Burge School of Nursing, however, the word “Deaconess” was on the school’s pins until the 1930s. The federal government standards and the State Board of Nurse Examiners requested so many changes in nursing education that it became evident that only schools in large hospitals would be able to meet the new standards. Burge School of Nursing became inactive in 1945 with the last eight students graduating in 1948. From 1940-1948, the average graduation class was 12. A total of 224 students had graduated since 1910.

Because of the acute shortage of nurses following WWII, it was deemed advisable to reactivate the school. Under the guidance of Lester E. Cox, Burge Hospital now had all services required by the State Board of Nursing to provide adequate clinical facilities for a school of nursing, except psychiatry. Affiliation was used to enable students to meet the psychiatry experience requirement. In January 1951, Burge admitted 15 students and in September 21 were enrolled. In January 1954, the first class since the closing of the school in 1948 graduated 13.

1956: The Nurses’ Home opened for 100 students. Today’s Fountain Plaza Room was the original lounge. The mural on the outside east wall, Helping Hands, became an icon to students who lived in “the dorm”.

1976: Burge School of Nursing attained its initial National League for Nursing accreditation.

1995: Burge School of Nursing, long recognized for its high standard of nursing education and the quality of its graduates, evolved to Lester L. Cox College of Nursing and Health Sciences. More than 2,500 nurses graduated from Burge, with the final graduation being held in June 1996.

The Board of Directors of CoxHealth named the college for its long-time Chairman, Lester L. Cox. College initial approval for the nursing program was received from the Missouri State Board of Nursing in May 1995, and 49 students were admitted to the Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree program in 1995. Thirty-one students graduated at the first commencement on May 10, 1997.

1997: The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program opened, and the first BSN degree was conferred at the May 15, 1999 commencement. Health Science certificate programs in medical transcription and medical coding were added in 1999 and 2001 respectively.

1999-2000: The college received initial accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

2002: The ASN Program received initial accreditation from the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission.

2003: The BSN Program received initial accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

2004-2005: The college received continued accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The next comprehensive evaluation is scheduled for the 2014-2015 academic year.

2006: A Dietetic Internship program was added to the Department of Health Sciences.

2008: The Associate of Science in Medical Assisting Program was approved by the Higher Learning Commission, with the first class accepted in fall 2008. On July 15, 2008, the Board of Trustees of Lester L. Cox College of Nursing and Health Sciences voted to officially change the name of the college to Cox College.

2009: Cox College was approved by the Higher Learning Commission to implement its first graduate degree, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN).

The Cox College pin retains the original design of the pin awarded in 1910 to the first graduate of Burge Deaconess Training School for Nurses. The design of the pin reflects the religious inspiration for the school of nursing that was established in 1907 by the hospital that has since evolved into CoxHealth. The design also connects nursing and other health care professions with their distant roots as sacred and altruistic vocations.

In this spirit, Cox College is committed to awarding this pin to graduates who are educationally prepared to be caring and competent health care professionals.

2010: Approval from the Higher Learning Commission facilitated the transition of the School of Diagnostic Imaging from CoxHealth to Cox College. Seven Imaging certificates are offered: Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Diagnostic Medical Sonography-Echo, Mamography, Mammography-Breast Imaging, Computed Tomography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Interventional Radiography.

Cox Family Legacy

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urge School of Nursing, long recognized for its high standard of nursing education and the quality of its graduates, evolved to Lester L. Cox College of Nursing and Health Sciences in 1994. On July 15, 2008, the Board of Trustees voted to shorten the name to Cox College. The CoxHealth Board of Directors reaffirmed the decision by also approving the name change on August 21, 2008.

Many individuals contributed to make Cox history of both CoxHealth and Cox College. Lester Edmund Cox (Lester L. Cox’s father) was a well-known businessman with numerous businesses including radio and television stations, manufacturing plants, tractor and appliance distributorships, warehouses, farms, dairies and real estate developments. Mr. Cox’s favorite saying was “Find a need and fill it.” In 1948, a group of doctors told him about a need — Burge Hospital and the nursing school were on the verge of closing due to financial problems. Cox was asked to join the board as chairman with a goal of bringing the hospital back into sound financial ground. Cox remembered as a child helping his mother, Amanda Cox, deliver wagonloads of food and homemade quilts to Burge patients from the Methodist Church’s Ladies’ Aid Society, so he decided to help. He challenged the doctors that if they would raise $75,000 he would match it. The doctors met the challenge and Cox gave them double what he had promised ($150,000).

Lester E. Cox continued to help the hospital and school until his death in 1968. Under his leadership, the hospital grew from 70 beds to 535 beds with an additional 200 beds in construction and assets of over $12 million. The dormitory and classrooms still used by Cox College were built while Lester E. Cox was chairman of the hospital’s board. The School of Nursing was one of Mr. Cox’s “pet” projects, and he and his wife, Mildred Lee Cox, gave many students scholarships and fundraised for many of the scholarships still in existence today. In 1969, the hospital name was changed to Lester E. Cox Medical Center to honor this businessman who had been so integral to the hospital’s survival and growth.

Lester Lee “Bud” Cox was born on Nov. 6, 1922. His father, Lester E., instilled a strong appreciation for the value of the dollar in his children, expecting them all to work and hold down jobs as they grew up. Lester L. attended Westminster College at Fulton, Mo., where he obtained a degree in economics before leaving to enlist in the Army when the United States became involved in World War II. It was during this time he married his college sweetheart, Claudine Barrett. Lester L. attended Drury College for his master’s degree in business administration. Lester L. and Claudine had one child, a son, Lester Barrett “Barry” Cox.

Lester L. Cox had seen his parents (Lester E. and Mildred Cox) donate both monetarily and through countless hours of their time to improve the hospital and its affiliated schools. He became equally involved and served on the board for Burge Hospital for 20 years, and was elected chairman of the board of the newly minted Lester E. Cox Medical Center after his father’s (Lester E.) death in 1968. Lester L. was directly involved with the decision to purchase land in south Springfield in 1971, which later became the site of the Cox South campus. He served as chairman of the board until his untimely death in December 1993. Like his father, Lester L. recognized the importance of training for those interested in the field of nursing and health sciences. He was instrumental in changing the Burge School of Nursing from a diploma program to a degree-granting institution. Lester L. died before the transition was final. On April 20, 1994, the Lester L. Cox Memorial Committee recommended to the Executive Committee of Cox Health Systems Board that Burge School of Nursing be renamed Lester L. Cox College of Nursing and Health Sciences. The Cox Health Systems Board of Directors approved the recommendation on April 21, 1994.

Members of the Lester L. Cox family have continued to play an active role in the leadership, success and financial support of the College and its students. Their leadership has been witnessed with Barry Cox (son) serving as chairman of the Cox College Board of Trustees from 1994 – 2003 and then continuing as a member of the board until 2006. Claudine (Cox) O’Connor also served on the College Board from 1994 until 2006. Larry Lipscomb (nephew) served on the College Board from 2003-2007, and also served as chairman from 2004-2006. As son-in-law and daughter of Lester E. Cox, Jack and Kitty Lipscomb have worked tirelessly on behalf of nursing education. Along with the initial establishment of this fund, they continually contribute to nursing education to ensure that it thrives in the community. Along with the Jack and Kitty Lipscomb Scholarship, the Lipscomb’s contribute generously to the scholarship baring Kitty’s parent’s names. The Lester E. and Mildred Cox Scholarship continues to grow thanks to the hard work and dedication of this family.

Lester L. Cox and his legacy will always be a pivotal point in the success of Cox College.