Lillian Scott Gatlin was born in Grimesland, NC as the youngest of twelve children to John Thomas and Lillian Catherine Gatlin. She gave her life to Christ at an early age and was very active in the life of her family’s home church, White Oak Missionary Baptist Church. As a child growing up in rural Pitt County, NC, Lillian learned early the values of hard work, giving, supporting and serving. These were lessons well modeled by her grandmother and mother who both ran successful farms after the deaths of their husbands. Lessons that she would carry with her throughout her life and best described by the mantra that she included as her senior quote in her high school yearbook, “Do all the good that you can, to all the people that you can, and in as many ways that you can.”
As a child, she was studious and loved to read and learn. Her favorite first-grade reader was “Baby Ray and the Seven Kitty Cats.” It was a book that she took everywhere and would tell the story from the pictures, even if the book was upside down. Her love of learning pushed her to excel in school, and she was often on the honor roll throughout her academic career. For as long as she could remember, Lillian wanted to be a nurse.
Lillian graduated from Pitt County Training School (PCTS) in 1959, where she attended from first grade through high school. Though the two had known each other previously, it was at PCTS during high school where she started dating a young Robert Everett Stokes. Following PCTS, Lillian and Robert spent their freshman years in college at North Carolina A&T State University as Biology majors. After her first year, Lillian followed her dream of becoming a nurse in earnest transferring to and graduating from Kate Bitting Reynolds School of Nursing with honors and successfully completing the State licensure examination to become a Registered Nurse. After one year of employment as a staff nurse, she entered North Carolina Central University to pursue a Bachelor of Science Degree, where she also graduated with honors.
On August 7, 1965, Lillian and Robert married in Grimesland, NC and later moved to Joliet, IL. In 1967, the couple moved to Indianapolis, IN with the intent of only staying long enough for Lillian to continue her education at Indiana University (IU). The pair, however, ended up planting deep roots in the Circle City. In 1969, Lillian graduated from IU Bloomington with a Master of Science in Nursing. By this point in her early career, Lillian served as a staff nurse at several hospitals in Virginia, Illinois, and Indiana. She started teaching in 1968 at Purdue University. She ultimately joined the faculty of IU School of Nursing as a nurse educator in 1972 where she would be employed for the remainder of her professional career until retirement in 2008.
Lillian served as Associate Professor in the Department of Adult Health and in 1996 added to that role the position of Director of Diversity & Enrichment at IUPUI’s School of Nursing. Her appointment as the director of diversity and enrichment at the university enabled her to devote more of her energies toward facilitating the success of minority nursing students. Under her directorship, the office launched several effective programs that resulted in increased minority enrollment and retention. A firm believer in continued development, in 1998, Lillian completed her Doctorate in Educational Psychology from IU Bloomington. During the course of her career, she published two books that were widely used as textbooks in leading schools throughout the U.S., Canada, and Australia. She also published chapters in books related to health care in the African-American community.
The lessons of service learned as a child stretched far beyond her professional pursuits. She was a faithful member of Witherspoon Presbyterian Church for nearly four decades. For 19 years she served as a Sunday School Teacher for the Middlers class at Witherspoon and continued to coordinate the Acolyte Ministry for the church until her passing. Both of these were milestones to which many children who grew up in the church looked forward. She was one of the founders of the Mothers & Mentors program that served to address the then high infant mortality rate of the community by providing guidance to young teen mothers. For many years, Lillian coordinated the snacks for Vacation Bible School, and, more recently, she headed up the Hospitality Ministry at church encouraging more healthy alternatives for post-worship fellowship. She also worked with the Homeless Ministry, was on the Worship committee, and every Christmas she extended the gift of love to families in need through the Sharing Tree Initiative.
Lillian was a member of a number of community and service organizations throughout Indianapolis. For over 50 years she was an active member of Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc., and served the organization on the local, regional and national levels. One of the programs that she helped to develop locally was “Flip Side” - a variety show featuring healthcare professionals. Further building on her passion for helping, particularly minority, nurses, the proceeds from this event went to scholarships for nursing students. Through the years, the organization has provided thousands of dollars to over 100 nursing students. She was elected as Chi Eta Phi’s 18th National President, a position she held for two terms. During her administration, she oversaw the chartering of a number of new chapters. In addition, she served as editor-in-chief of the organization's journal, The Glowing Lamp. for many years. She was active in many community and nursing organizations over the years including the American Nurses Association, the Indiana State Nurses Association, the National League for Nursing, the Indiana Citizens League for Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International, the Midwest Nursing Research Society, American Psychological Association, Association of Black Nursing Faculty, as well as, The Links, Inc., Coalition of 100 Black Women, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
In addition to community groups, Lillian was on the boards of a number of organizations including the National Kidney Foundation, The Orchard School, and sat on the Executive Council of Indiana University Alumni Association. Throughout her distinguished career, Lillian has received a number of awards. Some highlights include:
Inducted in October 2019 in the newest class of Distinguished Alumni Service Award (DASA) recipients from Indiana University. The DASA award is the highest accolade reserved solely for alumni
Inducted October 2015 as an Honorary Fellow into the National League for Nursing’s prestigious Academy of Nursing Education. The status of Honorary Fellows recognizes retired nurse educators and those in affiliated professions or public service who have made significant contributions to nursing education.
Inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 2001
2001 Distinguished Alumni Award, as well as, the Helen S. Miller Award from North Carolina Central University
American Nurses Association's Mary Eliza Mahoney Award in 2000
Distinguished Hoosier Award from the Governor of the State of Indiana in 1998
In 1996 received the Madame C. J. Walker Award (Outstanding Women of the Year), from the Center for Leadership Development
Received the Lucile Petry Leone Award at the 1975 National League for Nursing Convention. This award is given to an outstanding young nurse teacher who has made significant contributions to nursing education with no more than seven years of teaching experience within a ten-year period.
Received the Special Achievement Award and the Mabel Keaton Staupers Scholarship from Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc.;
The Maynard K. Hine Award for distinguished service to Indiana University,
Ebony Achiever Award from the Indianapolis Chapter of Jack and Jill of America and Coalition of 100 Black Women of Indianapolis.
Distinguished service awards from Girls Clubs of Greater Indianapolis, Jack & Jill of America, and from Indiana University School of Nursing Alumni Association.
She has been listed in Who's Who Among Black Americans, Who's Who Among American Women, Outstanding Teachers of America, and is included in Contemporary Minority Leaders in Nursing, which was published by the American Nurses' Association, and in The Paths We Tread. She was named one of the outstanding teachers at Indiana University School of Nursing.
Lillian has an award named in her honor at Indiana University School of Nursing. The Indiana University Alumni Association gives the Lillian G. Stokes Award annually to an associate degree student who excels in academic and clinical performance.
A devoted wife, mother, grandmother, and family member, Lillian is survived by her husband of 54 years, Robert; children Scott (Chandria) and Robyn; grandchildren Chase, Bryson, and Madison; aunt Ellomethea Dixon Hueston; sisters Queenie Taft and JoAnn (Monroe) Rountree; brothers James (Geneva) Gatlin and Paul Gatlin, and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and other close family and friends.
Humbly Submitted...Her Family
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dr. Lillian Scott (Gatlin) Stokes, please visit our floral store.