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1968 spotlight: Nurse travels world, helping others and having ‘intriguing adventures’
In summer 2016, Julia Taylor had her bags packed to spend a year in Africa. She was already a world traveler for work and fun when she became a nurse in 2005. She has been going on medical missions ever since. Photo by Jesse Scheve

1968 spotlight: Nurse travels world, helping others and having ‘intriguing adventures’

Written by Michelle S. Rose

By the time you read this story, Julia Taylor won’t be in her hometown of Ozark, Missouri.

She won’t even be on the same continent.

Taylor, a nurse, is in Uganda until July 2017 with a Peace Corps program called Global Health Service Partnership. The program sends U.S. doctors and nurses abroad to work alongside local providers and teach others to be health care professionals.

Missouri State magazine met with her the day before she started the journey to Africa. First, she was taking her dog, Ginger, to stay with one of her daughters.

And how did her family — five children, who live around the country from Arizona to Hawaii — feel about her trip?

“Uh, they’re all fine with it.”

A year in Africa might not be a big deal compared to that time about six years ago when she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, or that time she had to be evacuated from Iran.

“Julia is a dynamo in a small package,” said her friend Sheila Larkin Scott, ’68, part of a group of friends who met at Missouri State. “She’s a giving person who is always thinking of others. She wants to get the most out of life.”

Working around the world

Taylor earned a bachelor’s in mathematics from MSU in 1968 and taught junior high math in Missouri.

Her late husband, Robert Manning, was in the Army. The family moved to the southwest, and in 1971 she became the first person to earn a master’s degree in computer science from the University of Arizona.

She began working for the federal government, mostly the Department of Defense. When you ask if she can describe the work, she laughs and says: “It was mostly military intelligence. So, no.”

The couple lived around the world.

Their first overseas assignment was Iran in the 1970s. When the Iranian Revolution happened in 1979, “it was not a good time to be an American there, so they took all military dependents out.”

This didn’t dampen her enthusiasm for new places.

“I lived in Hawaii for about 10 years. I know, tough.”

There, she helped coordinate simulated war games.

She lived in Wisconsin, and a picture of a craftsman making cheese curds hangs in her kitchen to remind her of that state.

She lived in Georgia, and did statistics work for the Centers for Disease Control.

After 27 years, she retired from civil service … but she wasn’t done working.

Going on medical missions

Taylor earned a nursing degree in 2005.

She started going on medical mission trips, something she had first done in the 1980s. She’s been to Haiti, India, Guatemala, Peru and Honduras, to name a few places.

“My children were grown, and I thought: I have more time, and a talent that can help others.”

She has seen mothers caring for children with no hope of survival.

She was in Haiti just months after the 2010 earthquake, surrounded by rubble and tent cities.

She has worked alongside health professionals who must diagnosis and treat without technology.

She has gone to sites where the medical professionals aren’t fed many times a day, and sometimes the meals are spaghetti with ketchup.

“However, that worked fine for me,” she said. “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

And there has been joy: She loved being drenched in colored powder while dancing in a Hindu festival. She has seen people around the world, despite poverty or disasters, caring about one another.

“It has been an intriguing adventure.”

Traveling for fun

She recently moved back to the Ozarks, and is working for Mercy health systems.

She and seven female friends, most of whom are alumnae who met on campus in Wells House, go on trips from New Mexico to North Carolina.

“Several years ago, Smithsonian put out a ‘28 Places to See Before You Die.’ I’m working on that. I’ve been to about 14,” including the Amazon rainforest, Antarctica, the Great Wall, Machu Picchu, the Grand Canyon … the list goes on.

“I think you’ll regret more of the things you didn’t do in life than things you did do. And there are so many things I still want to do!”


  1. Tina Scott Watson

    What an adventurer and humanitarian! I appreciate her comment “To whom much is given, much is expected.” An encouragement to “…go and do likewise.”