Catalyst Magazine

Conways’ $13.8 Million Donation Marks Largest Gift In School Of Nursing’s History

The University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) has received a $13.83 million commitment from Bill and Joanne Conway through their Bedford Falls Fund to create an additional 345 Conway Scholarships across all degree programs. These scholarships will cover in-state tuition, fees, and — at the undergraduate level — books. The gift also includes $1 million to support renovation of the nursing building at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) in Rockville, Md.

This transformational gift, the largest in UMSON’s history, is the fourth donation to the school from the Conways, who have pledged nearly $30 million over the past six years. This new pledge will support students from fall 2022 to fall 2027.

In addition to supporting the continuation of UMSON’s Conway Scholars Program, the gift helps to facilitate UMSON’s expansion at USG. The school offers its Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program and its Doctor of Nursing Practice Family Nurse Practitioner specialty at USG; to provide space for these programs’ growth, USG’s Building I has been designated solely for UMSON. The renovation will allow for significant expansion of the simulation labs, create a student success suite, and provide an administrative suite.

Bill Conway and School of Nursing Dean Jane M. Kirschling visited with Conway Scholars in February 2020 at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, Md.
Bill Conway and School of Nursing Dean Jane M. Kirschling visited with Conway Scholars in February 2020 at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, Md.

As a sign of gratitude for the Conways’ ongoing generosity, the UMSON deanship now carries the Conway name, becoming “The Bill and Joanne Conway Dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing” in December 2020.

“As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for nurses is especially acute,” said University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS. “The Conways’ extraordinary generosity continues to help meet that need and propel the University of Maryland School of Nursing forward. Countless lives will be positively impacted because of their support. I’m especially pleased that the deanship will now be associated with these incredible and generous people.”

In April 2015, the Conways made their first pledge — $5.24 million over five years — to UMSON to expand enrollment in the entry-into-nursing BSN Program and to increase opportunities for registered nurses to obtain their BSN degrees. Less than two years later, they pledged another $2 million to provide scholarships for master’s and doctoral students and to support the launch of the Family Nurse Practitioner specialty at USG. And, in April 2018, they pledged an additional $8.2 million to continue the Conway Scholars Program.

Bill Conway said he and his wife focus their philanthropy on nursing schools because the workforce need is ever-present. “In the beginning, we wanted to make a charitable contribution, one that would enable people to have better lives, to be able to take better care of themselves, of their families, and eventually, to take care of the rest of us,” Conway said. “We also thought, ‘There will always be a need for nurses, so nurses will always be able to find a job.’ ”

Conway cites the relationships he develops with Conway Scholars and the personal and professional progress he sees in them as the most rewarding part of their philanthropy. “I’ve gotten to know some of the scholars over several years,” he said. “I can see their confidence level increase by leaps and bounds and get the sense that they are well-equipped to face any nursing challenge put before them. I have great respect for them, and I’m proud of them.

“I’ve also been impressed by hearing many of them say that they fully intend to continue their nursing education. I hope that our Conway Scholars will not be burdened by education-related debt — I want them to be able to pursue the kind of jobs they are truly interested in, not be limited to those that might pay the most. To coin a phrase: Free to be all that they can be. And that is all the reward that Mrs. Conway and I could want.”

With this latest gift, the Conways will have funded more than 830 Conway Scholarships at UMSON.

“This enormously generous gift from Bill and Joanne Conway is just the latest in a series of gifts from them that have transformed education access for nursing students,” said University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay A. Perman, MD, who served as president of UMB through December 2019. “That access is vital to population health at all times, of course, but during a deadly pandemic — when you see every day the life-saving impact of a robust and well-educated nursing workforce — gifts like the Conways’ are especially meaningful.

“Bill and Joanne have been among the most generous donors in UMSON’s history, and their philanthropy will reshape health care in Maryland, benefiting all citizens for generations to come. Their extraordinary legacy is assured.”

Representing UMSON’s Diversity

The demographics of Conway Scholars represent the diversity of UMSON’s student body, with 59 percent of scholars from minority and underrepresented populations (32 percent Black/African American, 12 percent Asian, 10 percent Hispanic, 5 percent other/more than one race) and 11 percent male. The scholars range in age from 18 to 52. In addition to full scholarships, Conway Scholars receive valuable coaching and mentoring services from faculty mentors through UMSON’s Student Success Center.

“We are incredibly grateful for this latest gift from Bill and Joanne Conway. It allows us to continue meeting the critical need, in Maryland and nationally, for improving access to care and patient outcomes by increasing the number of nurses educated at the baccalaureate degree level or higher. Maryland has grown the percentage of BSN-prepared nurses in our hospitals and health care organizations to 60 percent, but we are still short of the national goal of 80 percent,” said Jane Kirschling, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Bill and Joanne Conway Dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

“In addition, the increasing need for primary care throughout our state means that education of advanced practice nurses is essential. Through the Conways’ ongoing scholarship support, we are continuing to expand access to nursing education at all levels and with it, our nursing workforce. These Conway Scholars are critical to providing the caliber of nursing care our patients, their families, and our communities require and deserve; they will help ensure that we can meet health care needs in all parts of our state, now and in the years to come. The Conways’ extraordinary support for nursing is truly a game-changer.”

The Conways’ gifts have provided unprecedented opportunities to UMSON students while enabling the Conways to make progress toward realizing their philanthropic goal of providing scholarships for 10,000 nursing students.

Dean Jane M. Kirschling (far left) poses for a photo with Conway Scholars outside the School of Nursing in Baltimore in March 2020.
Dean Jane M. Kirschling (far left) poses for a photo with Conway Scholars outside the School of Nursing in Baltimore in March 2020.
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