Joanne and William E. Conway Jr., prominent Washington, D.C.-area philanthropists and supporters of nursing education, recently pledged $5 million to support nursing students and develop nurse educators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill through their foundation, the Bedford Falls Foundation.
The historic gift is the largest in school history to support students, and more than doubles the amount of annual scholarship funding available for the school’s baccalaureate program.
“I am inspired by the Conways’ thoughtful and innovative approach to addressing one of the nation’s significant health care challenges through their support of nursing education,” said Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “Nurses are vital to a compassionate health care system — we cannot do it without them — and Carolina feels keenly its responsibility to help meet the need for more nurses in our state. We are grateful for the Conways’ support and partnership in that effort.”
Structured to be paid out over five years, the gift will provide considerable partial support for up to 250 undergraduate nursing students each year and will help the school expand enrollment by up to 50% to help address the state’s nursing shortage.
The gift will also fund The Conway Scholars Program, an accelerated doctoral program designed to feed the pipeline of nurse educators at a time when the nation faces not only a critical shortage of nurses, but a critical shortage of those needed to teach them.
The Conway gift comes at a crucial time for Carolina Nursing as the school seeks the resources necessary to help address the state’s nursing workforce shortages. Scholarships like the Conways’ increase access to students interested in the profession by making nursing education more affordable, which makes recruitment and expanded enrollment easier for the school. Along with such support for students and faculty, the school has recently embarked on a $20 million private campaign to help fund a new Nursing Education Building that will accommodate the larger class sizes its current home cannot.
“We are deeply grateful to the Conways for their steadfast commitment to nursing education and to the nursing profession as a whole,” said Valerie Howard, dean of the School of Nursing. “The Conways are making a Carolina Nursing education more financially accessible to more students, which will positively impact our profession and, most importantly, our students, as we continue our commitment to excellence in academic nursing here at Carolina. That is a great help as we hope to attract more of the best and brightest to our profession as either nurses or nurse educators.”
The $5 million gift to UNC-Chapel Hill is the Conways’ first to a North Carolina school, but they have committed more than $250 million to schools of nursing throughout Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, over the last decade.
“In supporting Carolina Nursing, we seek to enable greater access to a high-quality nursing education in North Carolina and to address the critical nursing shortage both by making it more affordable to get an BSN and also by educating more educators for the next generation of BSN students,” said Bill Conway, co-founder and co-executive chairman of The Carlyle Group.