Skip to main content

Clara Alston had a 37 year career as a newborn critical care nurse at N.C. Children’s Hospital. When Clara began working at UNC in 1975, newborn critical care units were just starting to pop up in hospitals. By the time she retired from her position as assistant nurse manager in the Newborn Critical Care Center (NCCC) in 2012, Clara was an expert in the field of newborn critical care. She often shared stories about the early days and the evolution of newborn critical care nursing.

Her colleague, Diane Hudson-Barr, RN, PhD, says “Clara was a historian for us. She had seen neonatal critical care develop over three decades, and she had the respect of everyone: nurses, physicians and hospital administrators.” Diane adds “each of us has a story about how Clara helped us grow as nurses and as people. She was a good advocate for her patients and colleagues and a mentor for many people.”


When Clara passed away from cancer in 2013, her colleagues missed her wisdom and guidance. NCCC Nurse Manager Jennifer Flippin, RN, says “there is truly not a day that goes by that I don’t wish Clara was here, so that I could talk to her about what to do.”

When Carol Manenti, RN, learned about UNC Lineberger’s Commemorative Tile Program, she thought it would be a good way to honor and remember Clara. “I thought it would be nice for our staff to have a place to go and say ‘Clara, what should I do about this, or what should I do about that?’ The tile on the terrace gives us a place to go and remember her.”


Lori Carter, RN, explains, “In many respects, Clara gave her life to this institution. I think she came here every day – even if it was only for a couple of hours. It was really important to her to be available for people. She was a resource for everybody. We wanted to honor her.”

On the first anniversary of Clara’s death, the NCCC staff arranged for a small prayer service. Clara’s friends and family – including her son, Alston Neville – gathered around her commemorative tile on the Outdoor Terrace of the N.C. Cancer Hospital. They remembered her humor, her generous heart, her wisdom and dedication.
In honor of Clara’s remarkable legacy, several of the NCCC staff will attend Alston’s graduation from Duke University in May. They will continue to visit the spot on the Outdoor Terrace where she is memorialized, and they will remember the wisdom she shared.

To learn more about the Commemorative Tile Program, call Kelly Mansfield at (919) 966-0442 or visit