Service League investment creates nursing scholarships

East Carolina University’s College of Nursing will have Service League Scholars among their Pirate nurses beginning in 2024-25 academic year thanks to a $1 million gift from the Service League of Greenville.

Service League Scholars will earn full tuition and fees for the academic year in which they receive the award. Two scholars will be named in the inaugural year.

“The Service League’s investment in Pirate nurses will make a meaningful impact on the health and well-being of our state and region. Through the Undergraduate Nursing Scholarship Endowment, the legacy and impact of the Service League will continue in perpetuity at ECU,” Chancellor Philip Rogers said. “The Service League is stitched into the very fabric of East Carolina University and ECU Health through 80 years of service and support of the medical center and the students who are educated at ECU. We are grateful they are dedicated to furthering our mission.”

The Service League of Greenville Undergraduate Nursing Scholarship Endowment was established by the league in honor and recognition of the nursing profession. It is one of the first major gifts made through the ECU Health Foundation, the philanthropic arm supporting ECU Health and ECU’s health sciences campus.

“It is fitting for the Service League endowment to be one of the first major gifts established through the ECU Health Foundation as it highlights the alignment of the health system and the university and our shared mission to benefit the well-being of eastern North Carolina,” said Scott Senatore, chief philanthropy officer, of the foundation. “The Service League is an outstanding community partner and a prime example of the relational bonds that connect ECU Health and the university. Their gift will further student success in the College of Nursing and outstanding patient care at ECU Health.”

The Service League is well known by anyone who has visited ECU Health Medical Center. The nonprofit manages three gift shops at ECU Health, coffee kiosks and vending machines throughout the medical center.

Supporting health care initiatives and the education of health care providers closely aligns with the Service League’s mission to promote interests among its members in the community’s social, medical, economic, cultural and civic conditions.

League President Wendy Farrior said the organization committed to supporting health care education in 2018 through an endowed scholarship for students enrolled in the ECU School of Dental Medicine, the College of Allied Health Sciences, the College of Nursing (CON) and the Brody School of Medicine. Since then, league members have realized the significant impact these scholarships have had on health care in eastern North Carolina, she said.

The Service League of Greenville Scholarship Endowment has funded more than $105,000 in scholarships to students. The original endowment will continue to provide scholarship support at Brody, the School of Dental Medicine and the College of Allied Health Sciences.

“Nurses have a special place in the heart of the league. The profession is well-represented in our membership and many remain active in their nursing careers,” Farrior said. “With this scholarship, the league hopes to encourage nursing students to practice in eastern North Carolina after graduation and thereby continue the league’s legacy of service and partnership with the hospital.”

College of Nursing Dean Bimbola Akintade discusses the impact of scholarships with members of the Service League of Greenville.

Dr. Bimbola Akintade, dean of the College of Nursing, said scholarship investment is a significant part of the formula the college needs for continued success in the education of nurses.

“Your heart was in the right place when you made this (scholarship) decision,” Akintade said. “Our students are challenged in this program, and our standards are high. We produce the best nurses in North Carolina, and we’re competitive against any program in the country.”

Karen Gagnon, chair of the league’s scholarship committee, said the selection of the College of Nursing is a response to the national nursing shortage and because the CON represents the largest group of students within health care with the lowest scholarship support.

“For years, the college has prepared nurses to transform health care in North Carolina,” Gagnon said. “We hope to transform student lives by helping them graduate without the significant burden of loan debt and provide a connection between the recipients and ECU Health.”

The Service League of Greenville Undergraduate Nursing Scholarship Endowment will create the first full scholarship in the CON. Eligible students will have a demonstrated financial need, a 3.0 GPA or higher and a commitment to community service. Recipients are expected to be residents of eastern North Carolina, with first preference given to Pitt County residents.

Jeanne Martin, interim chair, baccalaureate nursing education department, said the need for scholarships is very real. Scholarships remove barriers for students who are putting themselves through the nursing program.

“This scholarship will pay dividends for a long, long time,” Martin said. “The need is real, and this is going to make a big difference.”

Proceeds from the league’s business within ECU Health have been used by the league to fund a wide variety of hospital equipment needs and capital projects. The organization’s members consider the scholarship endowments a natural extension of the league’s mission.

“The Service League has historically invested money into the bricks and mortar of the hospital,” Gagnon said. “It was time to bring the buildings to life.”