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Was one of the first Black students admitted to Pitt’s nursing program in 1943

Dr. Rachel Poole was a woman that wore many hats in her personal and professional life. She was a nurse, a mother, an educator, and over the years became a woman of accomplishment. But perhaps her most notable accomplishment was becoming one of the first three Black students admitted into the University of Pittsburgh’s nursing program in 1943. Dr. Poole, along with the other two Black students, graduated in 1947.

Dr. Poole died on the way to the hospital from her home in the Hill District on June 23. She was 92 years old.

“My mom believed in excellence and always felt that you had to be the best that you could be,” Dr. Poole’s daughter, Adriene Dilworth, told the New Pittsburgh Courier. “If that meant being the first of something significant, so be it.”

DR. RACHEL POOLE, in this undated photo, was one of the first African American students admitted into Pitt’s nursing program in 1943. (Photo courtesy Adriene Dilworth)

A dedicated student, Dr. Poole was co-valedictorian of her high school class, Westinghouse High, in 1942. Her desire to care for others in part was due to losing her own mother to cancer as a child. Beyond that, Poole had a passion for learning. Her mother was a teacher, and Dr. Poole’s commitment to education would stay with her throughout the course of her life. Dr. Poole earned a Master’s degree and two PhDs.

“Mom believed in education and ensured that the family would be well educated. As a child, she (was) a great teacher and inspired everyone,” Dilworth said.

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