Celebrating with students, donor urges, “Pay it forward”

While getting her nursing degree at UIC, Jessica Wardach participated in a full slate of volunteer experiences – working the Chicago Marathon medical tent, organizing blood and toy drives and serving as a peer mentor.

But she said those experiences might not have been possible without the help of scholarships. 

“[Scholarships] removed some financial pressure,” said Wardach, who will graduate with a BSN in May, "allowing me not only to focus on my studies, but to also have time to participate in co-curricular activities and volunteer opportunities across the city.” 

Wardach spoke at the College of Nursing’s second annual Donor & Scholar Recognition Luncheon on Apr. 21. The event brings together scholarship recipients and donors who make scholarships possible.

The intent of the event, said Dean Terri Weaver, is to give donors an opportunity to hear about the experiences of scholarship recipients, while students have a chance to thank their patrons.  

One of those donors is Mary Maryland, who earned her PhD at UIC Nursing in 1994. She established a scholarship award to honor her friend and mentor, Marguerite A. Dixon, the first African-American PhD student to graduate from the college.  

Maryland asked Dixon – who was also at the lunch – to stand as she paid tribute to her nearly 88-year-old “role model and mentor.”   

“Pay it forward,” Maryland told the students. “It is important that as we stand on those types of shoulders, that we reach back, bolster someone up, and help them move forward.” 

The college awarded scholarships to 75 students this year, up from 55 last year. Students from all six UIC College of Nursing campuses were honored at the lunch. Weaver added that these scholarships help the college support high caliber students and attract “the best and brightest.”

“It enables [students] to not take on an extra job; to not have that extra stress; to finish sooner; and to complete their work,” Weaver said. 

Megan Gordon, who is completing her first year in the dual Nurse-Midwifery and Women’s Health DNP program, said scholarships helped “keep her head above water” while working full-time and being in school. 

“Thank you to the donors that made my education possible for supporting what nursing is -- which is a lifelong learning process,” she said. 

See photos from the event