Changing the world: Clara Adams-Ender

October 14, 2016
Clara Adams-Ender

It’s a long road from tending tobacco fields in North Carolina to being named one of the 350 women who changed the world by Working Women magazine, but General Clara Adams-Ender has always defied convention. Adams-Ender is the University of Minnesota’s 2016 homecoming grand marshal.

The daughter of sharecroppers and the fourth of 10 children, Adams-Ender wanted to study law but went into nursing at her father’s urging. She earned a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees on Army scholarships, one of them at the U of M, and embarked on a remarkable 34-year military career.

Career highlights include being promoted to brigadier general; overseeing 22,000 nurses as chief of the Army Nurse Corps; and being the first Army nurse to command a major Army base, which involved managing 12,000 people and a budget of $90 million.

After retiring, Adams-Ender spent 15 years as president of Caring About People with Enthusiasm, a management consulting firm. She also wrote a book, My Rise to the Stars: How a Sharecropper's Daughter Became an Army General. Now focused on “shoring up” her legacy, she recently committed a bequest of $2 million to the University of Minnesota. The Clara Adams-Ender Endowed Leadership Chair will support a dean at the School of Nursing.

“The U was instrumental in my earning my master’s and moving on to executive positions,” she says.