By Lisette Hilton
Thanks to philanthropists Donald and Barbara Jonas, founders of the New York City-based Jonas Center for Nursing and Veterans Healthcare, more than 600 nurses have received doctoral scholarships in the U.S. Hundreds more are on the road to become PhDs and DNPs.
So when it came time to celebrate Donald Jonas’ 85th birthday last fall, nursing faculty and scholars wondered what could be better than following in Jonas’ giving footsteps.
Their gift was the Donald Jonas Legacy Fund, which will support 23 doctoral scholarships in nursing, in areas of healthcare important to Jonas, including veterans’ healthcare, homelessness, school health and autism.
The nursing community’s support has been overwhelming, according to Darlene Curley, MS, RN, FAAN, executive director of the Jonas Center.
“We expected to raise about $25,000, and we raised over $250,000,” Curley said. “More than half of all the Jonas scholars made donations. And the donations range from $10 to $1,000. That’s what makes this so special, because it’s in honor of him.”
Nurses give back
Annemarie Dowling-Castronovo, PhD, RN, associate professor, Evelyn L. Spiro School of Nursing, Wagner College, Staten Island, N.Y., said the funding she received from the Jonas Center did more than support her dissertation research.
“It connected me to an important resource network that continues to influence my research, teaching and practice of nursing,” she said.
Curley estimated that a nurse faculty member educates approximately 7,500 nurses, each of whom provides care to about 17,000 patients and families.
“(That) means that every faculty member touches the lives of 3.6 million patients over the course of a career,” Dowling-Castronovo said. “Therefore, it is not just me who benefits from being a Jonas Scholar.”
Dowling-Castronovo said she contributed to the Legacy Fund to say thank you.
After 20 years as a nurse practitioner, Annie J. Rohan, PhD, RN, NNP, PNP-BC, was selected as one of the first six Jonas Nursing Scholars.
Today, an assistant professor and director of pediatric research at Stony Brook (N.Y.) University’s School of Nursing, Rohan said the support fueled her ability to pursue a productive and fulfilling career as a nurse scholar.
“It was important for me to contribute to the Donald Jonas Legacy Fund, not simply because it advanced the nursing profession through programs to develop outstanding faculty and clinical leaders,” Rohan said. “More so, I wanted to contribute to this relatively unrestricted fund to support topics that were of particular interest to Mr. Jonas. I wanted to honor and support Mr. Jonas’ creativity and innovation. I believe that it has been through first-of-their-kind, visionary projects that Mr. Jonas has meaningfully shaped our nation’s future nursing leadership and scholarship. His programs and ideas – perhaps at one time considered superfluous and unconventional – have brought much needed attention and dignity to the support of nursing.”
Making an impact
Forty-five universities and colleges in the U.S. are affiliated with the Donald Jonas Legacy Fund and will match the $10,000 scholarship awarded to each of the fund’s scholars, according to Curley. In total, 130 schools partner with the Jonas Scholar program and about 13 will have Legacy Fund Scholars.
Nurses interested in pursuing a scholarship can visit JonasCenter.org for participating schools and contact the school of their choice about applying, she said.
With the addition of the Legacy Fund, the Jonas Center will have 1,000 doctoral scholars in the U.S. by the fall of 2016. That’s from a humble beginning of six scholars in New York in 2006.
“The Jonas Center began as a simple idea to ‘care for those who care for us,’” Donald Jonas said. “When we decided to dedicate this chapter of our lives to philanthropy, we knew we wanted a cause that we could be deeply involved in, not just in the form of check-writing. We wanted to make a difference in our lifetimes, and it became abundantly clear that nurses — the unsung heroes of our healthcare system — needed more champions.”
Nearly a decade since it was founded, the Jonas Center continues to look for opportunities for nursing to play a critical role in meeting the healthcare needs of the future, including in chronic disease management, an aging population and training future healthcare leaders, according to Jonas.
“The gift of the Jonas Legacy Fund is beyond heartening, and I’m profoundly appreciative of the generosity of our scholars, partners, colleagues and friends for their contributions,” he said. “It is especially gratifying that half of our scholars and alumni donated to the fund. To know that the impact of the Jonas Center is being extended by these individuals and organizations is the best birthday gift.”
Lisette Hilton is a freelance writer.