Compared to glitzy giving for new hospital wings or underwriting medical research, nursing doesn't tend to excite many big individual donors. That's a problem, since nurses are one of the pillars of our healthcare system and the country faces a major shortage of these professionals.
So it was good to hear that the University of Connecticut’s School of Nursing just got a $2.3 million gift from Robin Froman and Steven Owen to create its first ever endowed faculty chair.
That’s a big deal. Though the School of Nursing has been around since 1940, it had yet to attract the kind of donation necessary to create an endowed chair—until now, obviously.
And the motives of the donors are not very hard to divine.
Froman has the deepest connection to UConn, having earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor of philosophy in education from the Neag School of Education, as well as a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing.
She went on to serve as a faculty member, department chair, and interim associate dean for the School of Nursing. In 1991, she established UConn’s Center for Nursing Research, and became its first chair. Clearly this is someone with a passion for nursing, and a long history with the school.
But the UConn connection doesn't stop there. Froman’s husband Steven Owen taught and conducted research for nearly three decades in the Neag School’s Department of Educational Psychology. Froman and Owen relocated to Texas when Froman was recruited to be associate dean for research at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, but obviously left a piece of their heart in Connecticut.
But why did Froman and Owen step up now top make a big gift like this? Well, clearly they have a connection to the school. Clearly, they had the funds available. But lately, things seem to be moving forward for UConn’s School of Nursing in a pretty serious way, and we’re guessing that’s what motivated the couple to finally pony up the dough.
In 2012, the School of Nursing officially opened its 15,800 square foot Widmer Wing, an addition designed to bring the School of Nursing into the 21st century (and out of the hundred-plus year old Augustus Storrs Hall).
The addition includes advanced clinical simulation labs, high-tech broadcast capabilities, and cameras to help students observe and critique their peers. Earlier this week—in fact, a day before Froman and Owen announced their gift—UConn announced receipt of a $1.4 million three-year federal grant to be shared with Middlesex Hospital to launch a geriatric care and research program.
Though it seems like the UConn School of Nursing has been a sleepy place for much of its history, it suddenly seems to be gearing up—maybe to take on the dire nurse shortage the U.S. is currently facing. And this latest endowed chair will surely help their case.