June 20, 2006 -- An estate gift from the late Albemarle County educator Mortimer Y. Sutherland Jr. will provide $6 million for financial aid at the University of Virginia, including a scholarship fund for U.Va.’s School of Nursing.
Three-quarters of the gift will create the M.Y. Sutherland Jr. Scholarship Fund, an endowment that will generate support for need-based scholarships, with a preference for students from Albemarle County. The remaining 25 percent will create the Helen Sutherland Berkeley Nursing Scholarship, named in honor of his sister, who graduated from the School of Nursing in 1932.
“Mortimer Sutherland’s abiding devotion to learning will live on through this extraordinary gift,” saidUniversity President John T. Casteen III. “We are grateful for the careful forethought that went into this bequest, for the way it honors two loyal and distinguished alumni, and for the ongoing support it provides for deserving students in the School of Nursing and across the University.”
Sutherland, who earned a bachelor’s degree at the University in 1934 and a master’s degree in 1935, died in January at age 92. A lifelong resident of North Garden in southern Albemarle County, he was a teacher and principal before becoming a member of the Albemarle County School Board and later the Board of Supervisors.
Sutherland taught at Scottsville High School from 1937 to 1944. He then transferred to Meriwether Lewis High School, where he became principal, taught math and history, and coached baseball, basketball and boxing. He retired in 1946 and was elected to the Albemarle County School Board in 1954. The following year, he was elected to the Board of Supervisors and served two terms. In 1993, the county named the new Mortimer Y. Sutherland Middle School in his honor, recognizing his service as an educator and community leader.
In a 1993 interview with the Charlottesville Daily Progress, Sutherland explained his desire to create scholarships to help deserving students from low-income families. “I just wanted to have something where the University could help those students who didn’t have the funds to go [there],” he said. “The University did a whole lot for me.”
Sutherland’s bequest will enhance the School of Nursing’s ability to meet a pressing need, both locally and nationally, for qualified nurses. “This gift comes at the best possible time, given the sustained and long-term nursing shortage and the large number of nursing applicants who want to study nursing,” said Jeanette Lancaster, the Sadie Heath Cabaniss Professor of Nursing and dean of the school. “Our goal is to admit the best applicants possible, including those who have financial needs.”
By choosing to honor his sister, Sutherland paid tribute to the first nursing supervisor in the University’s eye clinic. She later worked for eye specialists in the Charlottesville area before interrupting her nursing career to assist her husband, University archivist Francis L. Berkeley Jr., with his research in Scotland and England as a Fulbright and Guggenheim fellow.
Known as “Gete” by her family and widely admired in the community, Helen Sutherland Berkeley retired from nursing in 1967 and died in 1993 after a long illness. According to her obituary, she had a “singular capacity for friendship” and an ability to reach out to people from all walks of life. Grateful former patients came to her home each year at Christmastime to sing carols at her doorstep.