Sally Perkins Winn Nicholson, PhD, RN

March 1, 2020

Dr. Sally Nicholson of Charlotte, NC died March 1, 2020 after declining health at the age of 87. She was born in Monroe, Virginia in her maternal grandparents’ home on January 15, 1933 to the late Lucy Perkins Winn and Warner Guy Winn Jr.

Sally grew up in Epsom, NC.  After graduating in 1951, as valedictorian of her class at Epsom High School, she enrolled in the University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill School of Nursing’s class of 1955, the first full class of women on campus and North Carolina’s first four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. The seventeen women who graduated in 1955 would always share a bond of friendship. During her undergraduate years, Sally was active in campus activities as well as nursing courses. She participated in the Carolina Political Union, the Baptist Student Union and was invited in her junior year to be a member of the Order of the Old Well, later serving on the executive committee during her senior year. The organization recognizes students who demonstrated outstanding humanitarian services in various campus activities. 

Soon after graduation and moving to Atlanta, GA, Sally worked for the DeKalb County Health Department, running many departments to include Well Child Clinics and Maternity Clinics. In January 1956 she married John Nicholson, her college boyfriend.  In 1959 John died of an aneurysm in Atlanta. Upon completing her masters in community health nursing at Emory University in 1961 Sally was offered the position of instructor of public health nursing at the Texas Woman’s University in Dallas, her home for three years. To continue her career in nursing education, Sally obtained a PhD in human development from the University of Maryland at the Institute of Child Study. During her third year of study she joined the Air Force Reserves as a flight nurse eventually completing twenty-four years.

With her PhD, Sally returned to the UNC School of Nursing in 1973 and developed the graduate major in pediatric nursing. She also managed to attend monthly training flights as chief nurse of the Reserve unit at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. In 1974, she accepted a position at the UNC Charlotte School of Nursing as an associate professor, fulfilling a need for their public health program. When a new dean was hired the next year, Sally became assistant to the dean, a position she held until 1983, while continuing to teach growth-and-development, nursing research, and community health nursing courses as part of a faculty team. Sally was promoted to professor of nursing in 1977.  In 1978 a faculty team developed the Pathways Program for registered nurses to earn baccalaureate degrees. Sally joined this team two years later and continued to be a member for the remainder of her time on the faculty.

After moving to work at UNC Charlotte, Sally transferred in 1976 from the Air Force Reserve to the North Carolina Air National Guard as part of the 156th Aero Medical Unit. She went on to become the first woman in the North Carolina Air National Guard to achieve the rank of lieutenant colonel.  On December 31, 1991 she retired as a lieutenant colonel from the air force, and in 1993 she also retired from UNC Charlotte, becoming professor emerita.  Sally forged new paths in the Air Force and as an educator. She mentored colleagues as well as students and enjoyed watching them learn and grow personally as well as professionally.

Sally loved to knit during school classes and on the aircraft during training flights, becoming quite accomplished. She was a diehard Chapel Hill alum, loving all the nursing class reunions, especially the 50th year reunion and becoming a member of UNCs Old Students Club. She loved her dogs and cats and treated them as her children. She wrote poetry, writing “Thirty Years” for her thirty year reunion; was smarter than most, but never let you know it; had a memory of an elephant and a heart of gold; had famous Christmas parties and was a great cook. Sally was beloved by her nursing school classmates whom she also adored.  She will be remembered especially by Miller and Stephen who enabled her to be a Mom.

Sally was preceded in death by her sister Ruina Y. Winn Tucker. She is survived by her loving sister Lucy Guy Winn Shockley of Warm Springs, GA; Nephew, Alan Shockley and his wife Jessica and their two daughters Harper and Zolla of Long Beach, CA.

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  • Sherry Hamrick

    It was an honor to serve with Lt Colonel Nicholson. She paved the way for nursing and women in the military. I have fond memories of her.

  • jim brookes

    Served with Col Nicholson for many years. She had a heart of service and education. She was a good friend and will be missed. Slow Salute Col.

  • Susan Carr

    I was lucky enough to move next door to Sally when I returned to Charlotte in 2014. She was a delightful and sweet neighbor and friend, and a very talented artist who was generous with her creations. Because of her modesty, I learned about her extraordinary career and accomplishments only while reading her obituary. I have fond memories of sharing time with Sally, Miller and Stephen, along with PD her dog and AE her cat. She touched many, many lives and is greatly missed.