A Fitting Tribute to a National Leader: Alumna Establishes Jeanette Lancaster Fund for Faculty Excellence

Oct. 1, 2007 -- University of Virginia School of Nursing Dean Jeanette Lancaster was asked recently what one fundraising aspiration she had yet to fulfill during her tenure. Her easy answer: she wished she had been able to raise more money to support faculty. Her job as dean has been an annual exercise in stretching resources to the max, she said; if there was a larger pool of money to support pilot research projects, innovative teaching initiatives and faculty development, then she would be much better able to stimulate and reward excellence.

It was a timely conversation. Nursing School alumna Rebecca Ruegger had been pondering how she could meaningfully celebrate Lancaster’s extraordinary accomplishments. Earlier this month, the School of Nursing Advisory Board announced that Ruegger gave $500,000 to establish the Jeanette Lancaster Fund for Faculty Excellence. Others are being encouraged to contribute to this endowment fund to raise the invested principal to $1 million. The goal is to have the funding in place by the time Lancaster steps down as dean in the spring after 19 years of service.

Ruegger’s gift is also homage to her own experience as a student and the supportive connection she felt with her faculty mentors. “I feel honored and fortunate to be able to do this,” Ruegger said. “I’ve been so inspired by Jeanette as a nurse and a nursing leader. It’s amazing to me that one person can show a level of leadership that is helping to address the nursing shortage.”

While humbled by such generosity, Lancaster said she is thrilled by the gift. “By establishing an endowment for faculty excellence, Rebecca has responded to one of my most heartfelt desires, which is to have resources to fund the innovative ideas that our faculty have for new programs, new ideas and new types of research.”

The school’s chief development officer, David Black, said he knows how much the school means to the dean and how much the dean means to the school. “Dean Lancaster’s long and determined efforts to get the message out about nursing and about this school, and her tireless efforts to make and gather friends on behalf of our community – those are the principal reasons why philanthropic support for the school have grown so dramatically over the past decade,” he said.

About the University of Virginia School of Nursing: The school stands among the top 5 percent in the nation, ranked 19th by US News & World Report; two of its graduate programs are currently listed in the U.S. News Top Ten.  With a vigorous research program that includes studies in rural health care and disparities, oncology, gerontology, complementary therapies and nursing history, the school is ranked 22nd in National Institutes of Health nursing research funding and No. 1 in the country for doctoral student-authored NRSA Fellowships. The school has implemented programs and strategies to address the national nursing shortage and the concurrent need for more highly educated nurses to deliver increasingly complex health care. Dean and Sadie Heath Cabaniss Professor of Nursing Jeanette Lancaster, PhD, RN, FAAN, is president of the prestigious American Association of Colleges of Nursing. For information about the U.Va. School of Nursing and its programs, visit www.nursing.virginia.edu