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Villanova College of Nursing Receives $2.5 Million Gift for Students with Financial Need

Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
Updated December 6, 2023
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    Pennsylvania faces a nursing shortage. A $2.5 million gift will help Villanova University offer scholarships to nursing students with financial need.
    Church on Villanova University's campusCredit: Getty Images
    • The $2.5 million donation will provide $10,000 scholarships to 500 nursing students.
    • Pennsylvania faces a nursing shortage, which the gift will help address.
    • William and Joanne Conway have donated more than $10 million to Villanova’s College of Nursing.

    In November, Villanova University’s M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing in Philadelphia received a $2.5 million gift from philanthropists William and Joanne Conway. The donation will support 500 nursing students who demonstrate financial need. Donors and school officials hope that the gift will help ease Pennsylvania’s nurse shortage, which is among the nation’s worst.

    “The shortage of nurses will continue to intensify as our population ages and the need for health care grows,” William Conway said in a statement announcing the gift. “In helping to grow nursing programs like the one at Villanova, we can begin to ensure there are enough high-quality nurses to meet demand and provide the necessary health care to our most vulnerable populations.”

    The Nurse Shortage: A Need Area in Pennsylvania

    Pennsylvania faces one of the worst nurse shortages in the country. According to 2021 research from Mercer, the state will face a gap of more than 20,000 registered nurses (RN) by 2026. That represents the largest projected gap in the country.

    “It’s critically important that we do everything we can to alleviate the hospital staffing crisis that is driving RNs from the bedside and imperiling patient care in every corner of our state,” said Maureen May, RN, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals.

    As of 2022, nearly 138,000 RNs care for nearly 13 million Pennsylvanians, according to NurseJournal research. That translates to 10.64 nurses per 1,000 people, slightly higher than the national average of 9.22 nurses per 1,000 people. But retirements and turnover both contribute to the shortage.

    Pennsylvania’s government has recently taken steps to alleviate the shortage. As of Sept. 5, RNs licensed in other states through the Nurse Licensure Compact can practice in Pennsylvania.

    “This key step will help address Pennsylvania’s severe nursing shortage and increase health care access for patients across the Commonwealth,” the government announced in a press release.

    By providing financial support to nursing students who are in need, the $2.5 million gift will help Pennsylvania meet the critical need for RNs.

    “I applaud the Conways for their commitment to increasing the number of qualified nurses in the pipeline at this critical time in our nation’s history by expanding access to a Villanova Nursing education,” said Donna Havens, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, the dean of Villanova’s College of Nursing.

    William and Joanne Conway: Who Are They?

    William and Joanna Conway are no strangers to philanthropy. The $2.5 million gift represents the fourth donation to the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing. In 2021-2022, the Conways donated $5 million toward the school’s accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (ABSN) program. They also donated $2.5 million in 2022 to fund a Ph.D. program to increase the number of qualified nursing faculty.

    The current $2.5 million gift will fund $10,000 scholarships for 50 nursing students each year over five years.

    The Conways have also made major donations to other nursing schools in the Mid-Atlantic region, with a goal of financially supporting 10,000 new nurses. In 2021, the Conways donated $13.83 million to the University of Maryland School of Nursing, the largest donation in the nursing school’s history. Donations from the Conways will fund 830 scholarships from 2022 to 2027.

    William Conway co-founded the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, in 1987. Since stepping down as co-CEO in 2018, Conway has devoted his time to the charitable trust he created with his wife, Joanne, in 1997. The Bedford Falls Foundation has funded nursing schools, hospitals, and health organizations in the Mid-Atlantic region.

    The New Gift for Villanova Nursing: What Will It Do?

    The $2.5 million donation to Villanova Nursing will fund Pell Grant eligible nursing students (ie, those demonstrating exceptional financial need) over a five-year period. Villanova will award $10,000 scholarships to 50 students each year. The Conways made the donation to support nursing students who face financial barriers to launching their careers in nursing.

    In addition, the Conway’s previous donations to Villanova will fund college graduates returning to school to train as nurses and future nursing faculty.

    Villanova’s College of Nursing estimates that the Conways’s donations will allow the school to boost enrollment in its second-degree program by at least 30%.

    “The generosity of the Conways will benefit hundreds of future Villanova nurses and nursing faculty as well as the future patients and communities they will serve,” Havens said of the couple’s latest gift. “With our continued partnership, I look forward to increasing the capacity of our programs to meet the urgent need for nurses in the workforce — and qualified nursing faculty in the classroom to teach students.”