With 40 years of nursing experience under her belt, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) alumna Elizabeth “Beth” O’Connell ’62 understands the value of a nursing education.
This is one of the reasons why O’Connell recently decided to endow a scholarship for SMWC’s nursing students. This endowment will be the first of its kind for the program, which just completed its second year.
“I was excited when I learned that SMWC was so forward thinking and was starting a nursing program,” O’Connell said. “After devoting more than four decades to the nursing profession, it makes me proud that my alma mater is now preparing the next generation of nurses. Nursing professionals are needed and The Woods is helping to meet that need.”
O’Connell earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from The Woods and continued her studies years later at the University of Maryland where she received a bachelor’s in nursing and a master’s degree. She said her gift was motivated by a desire to give back.
“The O’Connell Endowed Nursing Scholarship is a tribute to the strong foundation I received at SMWC during my baccalaureate studies. That foundation contributed to my success in the varied clinical and administrative positions I held as a registered nurse,” she said.
Nursing is the fastest growing academic major at SMWC, having been added to the College’s offerings two years ago, and already accounting for 12 percent of undergraduate students. Health science programs overall are a burgeoning area for the College and for Indiana, as the state’s need for nurses and other healthcare workers continues to go unmet. SMWC offers both an on campus four-year baccalaureate and an online RN to BSN completion program.
Marcia Miller, Ph.D., R.N., chairperson of the department of nursing, expressed her appreciation for the alumna’s support. “This generous gift from Beth will greatly help our talented students,” said Miller. “Nursing students often face additional cost of uniforms, immunizations, expensive books, and personal equipment, such a stethoscopes. Gifts of this nature, really help students feel secure that others believe in them and are supportive of their success.”
This endowed scholarship will provide an annual award of $1,500 or more for nursing students enrolled in the baccalaureate nursing program that maintain good academic standing, as determined by the nursing program standards, and demonstrate a financial need.
“The nursing program at SMWC has been blessed with very dedicated faculty and staff,” said Miller. “They have worked diligently to create a high quality program that is student-centered. The philosophy of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin to ‘Love the children first, then teach them’ inspires faculty to provide the personal attention that student need to reach their academic goals.”
The mission of the nursing program is to provide a value-added education that produces professional and advanced practice nurses who think critically, engage in lifelong leadership, and effect positive change in a spirit of service and social responsibility. It was fully accredited in October 2016 by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) in its initial eligibility as a new nursing program.