Rosie Stanfield (Baltimore Sun / April 18, 2012)

Rosie L. Stanfield, a registered nurse who later became the first African-American director of nursing at Spring Grove Hospital Center, died Saturday of ovarian cancer at Gilchrist Hospice in Towson.

The longtime Randallstown resident was 66.

The daughter of a long-distance truck driver and a homemaker, Rosie Louise Walker — who went by the name Rose — was born one of 10 children in Olney. The family later moved to Catonsville, where she attended Baltimore County public schools.

She was forced to drop out of high school in the 10th grade because she was expecting her first child, family members said.

In 1967, she began working as a nursing aide at Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville, and while raising her four children and working, she earned her General Educational Development certificate.

She earned a bachelor's degree in 1980 in nursing from the University of Maryland School of Nursing, and three years later, a master's degree in nursing administration.

In 1985, she was named director of nursing at Spring Grove, becoming the first African-American to hold that post.

While working at Spring Grove, she continued her education and earned a doctorate in education in 1993 from Morgan State University. For this accomplishment, she received a letter of congratulations from President Bill Clinton and was honored with a "Gold 13 Salute" from WJZ-TV.

"I worked with her for many years, and she was astonishingly energetic, bright, creative and wonderful in every sense of the word," said Dr. David S. Helsel, a psychiatrist who is CEO of Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup and previously headed Spring Grove.

"She had a wonderful sense of humor and an infectious laugh that could light up a room. She was honest and faithful, and most of all, unafraid," he said. "She was well-loved by the patients and staff, and her life was so inspirational."

"Throughout her time at Spring Grove, she nurtured the talents of all her employees and brought out the best in them by telling her story and setting a good example to follow," said a daughter, Trina Lumpkins Pugh, who lives in Severn and is a manager at the National Security Agency. "She was always firm but fair."

Dr. Stanfield also set an example for her children by placing a high value on education.

"She always encouraged us and made sure we got an education. She used to say, 'I don't want you to make the same mistakes I did, and if you get in trouble, you can rise above it.' And she certainly turned her life around," said Ms. Pugh.

"And she stayed on top of us. It was all about working hard, and she treated the people at Spring Grove the same way," said Ms. Pugh, who recalled that the moment she and her siblings arrived home from school, the first priority was completing homework.

Dr. Stanfield garnered numerous awards during her career, including being named Outstanding Nurse Executive by the mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland. In 1995, she was voted Nurse Executive of the Year.

She retired in 1998.

Dr. Stanfield also served for two decades in the Army Reserves, starting in 1984, and attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.

"Her children teased her about wearing combat boots and driving a humvee, but she took it all in stride," said Ms. Pugh.

She also became a nurse surveyor and consultant in 1998 with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, and traveled extensively throughout the country evaluating hospitals and other health care facilities.