$14M Gift to Nursing School Increases Access, Addresses Nurse, Nurse Faculty Shortages

September 2, 2022
Three nursing students practice taking one another's blood pressure.

Students in the Nursing School’s new two-year accelerated BSN program practice checking one another’s blood pressure in the simulation lab. (Photo by Christine Kueter, UVA School of Nursing)

The University of Virginia’s School of Nursing received a new $14 million commitment from longtime benefactors Joanne and Bill Conway of Washington, D.C., a gift that amplifies their previous transformational support, which now totals $49 million.

The Conways’ generosity will enable the school to reduce the cost of a nursing education for students; offer financial support and scholarships to Clinical Nurse Leader master’s students, who are pivoting from other professions into nursing; and take aim at the nation’s severe nursing shortage, a challenge intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our goal of supporting the School of Nursing is twofold,” said Bill Conway. “To enable greater access to a quality education and address the critical nursing shortage.”  

The Conways’ latest gift will provide at least 175 need- and eligibility-based scholarships to both graduate and undergraduate students to cover tuition, school fees, room and board, and books. It will also fund scholarships specifically for Clinical Nurse Leader master’s students who have transitioned to nursing from other careers, as well as doctoral students who plan to become future nursing professors and nurse scientists.

Nursing students sit and stand on a low-rise stage wearing their scrubs in front of a wall that reads "University of Virginia, School of Nursing"
The first-ever cohort of 24 students in the accelerated BSN program, who began their studies in May and have begun their first clinical rotations this fall. (Photo by Christine Kueter, UVA School of Nursing)

With a wave of nurse faculty retirements expected over the next decade, and the average age of a nursing professor between about 51 and 63, nursing schools cannot address the nation’s nurse shortage without also fortifying the pipeline of doctorally prepared educators to teach them.

“Bill’s and Joanne’s extraordinary generosity comes at a critical moment, as our country faces an unprecedented nursing shortage,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “Their latest gift will enable more students to pursue nursing degrees at UVA, removing barriers and offering important support for students. I’m incredibly grateful for the Conways’ ongoing commitment to the School of Nursing and the nursing profession as a whole.”

“Nurses are essential to our nation, as they are on the front lines of patient care,” said Dr. K. Craig Kent, chief executive officer of UVA Health and executive vice president for health affairs at the University. “They are pivotal to reducing health inequities and ensuring better health for our communities. We are grateful to the Conways for their vision and generosity in helping us educate the next generation of nurses.”

The Conways’ previous contributions have expanded the capacity to educate more nurses and enhanced access to the School of Nursing’s RN-to-B.S.N. program. This included establishing satellite sites in Richmond and Northern Virginia, fueling the growth of the school’s highly ranked Clinical Nurse Leader program, providing significant support for its Mary Morton Parsons Clinical Simulation Learning Center and contributing to a flexible pool of scholarships.

“Today, we nurses are more visible, listened to, and needed than ever before,” said Marianne Baernholdt, dean and Sadie Heath Cabaniss Professor of Nursing at the UVA School of Nursing. “I am grateful that Bill and Joanne Conway’s continued support will allow us to educate even more skilled, compassionate nurses while supporting the pipeline of future nursing faculty members. This work will enhance our ability to address the needs of our communities for years to come.”

Media Contact

Christine Phelan Kueter

School of Nursing