Couple’s $2.5M gift bolsters scholarship support to VCU nursing students

Nursing students receive instruction at a clinical learning center in the VCU School of Nursing. ...
Nursing students receive instruction at a clinical learning center in the VCU School of Nursing. (Contributed photo)

The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing has received a commitment of $2.5 million from philanthropists William E. Conway Jr., co-founder and co-executive chairman of the Carlyle Group, and his wife, Joanne, to fund need-based scholarships for undergraduate students.

These funds meet a tremendous need. In VCU’s School of Nursing, 66% of the 852 students enrolled this year qualified for need-based scholarships and 62% of all nursing students are enrolled in the undergraduate program. Installments of $500,000 annually will support scholarships for nursing students who do not have prior nursing degrees or are enrolled in the school’s RN to B.S. program for nurses with associate degrees. In addition, to increase the pipeline of future nursing faculty, one to three scholarships will be awarded annually to doctoral students who have an interest in a faculty career.

Scholarship assistance can often make the difference between dropping out and completing a degree, said Jean Giddens, Ph.D., dean of the VCU School of Nursing.

"We are extremely grateful to William and Joanne Conway for supporting our students' efforts to become nurses and advance their education," Giddens said. "Their investment helps our school to meet the ever-changing needs of health care by ensuring a highly educated nursing workforce."

To date, over 1,000 students and nurses from seven schools of nursing in Virginia, Maryland and Washington have received scholarships from the Conways. Funds have gone not only to scholarships, but also to the training and mentoring of faculty.

William Conway said nursing education is an ideal focus for his philanthropic endeavors due to a high demand for nurses nationally.

“In the beginning, Mrs. Conway and I wanted to make a charitable contribution, one that would enable people to receive an education that would allow them to have better lives, to take better care of themselves, their families and eventually, to take care of the rest of us,” he said. “We also thought there will always be a need for nurses, so nurses will always be able to find a job.”