Katherine Wilson grew up in Morganton, N.C. She was an excellent student, an avid soccer player, committed volunteer and great friend. After graduating high school with honors, Katherine came to UNC Chapel Hill to discover what she wanted to do with her life. Nursing became her dream and her passion. A nurse, she said, gets to help people.
In 1999, just months after entering nursing school, Katherine began to cough and have chest pain. During one of her clinical courses, she asked the resident assistant to listen to her breathing. The resident assistant immediately sent Katherine to student health services. Student health services referred Katherine to UNC Hospitals.
Anne and John Wilson, Katherine’s parents, were with her at UNC Hospitals the day she was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. She was only 23.
While undergoing massive doses of radiation and chemotherapy, Katherine’s friends and family were inspired by her determination to continue her nursing studies. SON Undergraduate Program Director Dr. Beverly Foster and other SON faculty were touched by Katherine’s unrelenting drive to become a nurse. Everyone wanted to see Katherine succeed at something she obviously desired so much.
The SON created a flexible schedule to allow Katherine to continue her studies. In 2004, long after many of the classmates Katherine entered nursing school with had already graduated, she walked up to the podium to receive her BSN as a Sigma Theta Tau honor society inductee. Eliza Brooks, a childhood friend, was there to “pin” her.
On Feb. 16, 2005, Katherine Wilson lost her courageous battle with cancer. She was 28 years old.
Several weeks before Katherine died, David Greer called SON Office of Advancement Director Norma Hawthorne. Norma learned that David was engaged to Amanda Womble, one of Katherine’s nursing school roommates. He asked what it would take to establish an endowed scholarship in Katherine’s honor. David, along with Katherine’s friends and family, wanted to show Katherine what an inspiration she was to all of them. They told Katherine about their intentions to establish the scholarship fund and she was ecstatic that she would continue to help people even after she was gone.
“We are thrilled that Katherine had a chance to know something about this incredible project. She was overwhelmed by the reality that she would still be able to have an impact on nursing even after she was gone. John and I find that words are inadequate as we try to express our appreciation to you (Dean Cronenwett) and to the School of Nursing faculty and staff. There have been so many ways over the past five years that all of you have been so caring and compassionate toward Katherine and our family. Bev Foster was such an important part of Katherine’s survival. She helped Katherine have a focus and a goal, which we believe helped keep her moving forward. We will be forever grateful that Katherine was able to graduate with a BSN. That accomplishment meant so much to her.”
Never before in the history of the School of Nursing has a grass roots scholarship effort been so successful- true testimonies to the love and respect people have for Katherine and her family. By August 2005, the Fund had reached deposits of $88,160 given by 336 donors, and secured a $36,000 pledge from Foothills Marine.
A silent auction in Norfolk, Va., hosted by Billy and Fann Greer, and supported by the Hampton Roads General Alumni Association Chapter and its president Chuck Williams, contributed over $2,000 to the Scholarship Fund.
In Morganton, David McCrary, a high school classmate of Katherine’s, organized a barbecue benefit that raised over $3,000 for the Scholarship Fund.
And, owner of Foothills Marine in Morganton, Matt Farris, organized a Memorial Day weekend bass fishing tournament at Lake Norman in North Carolina. It raised over $17,000 for the Scholarship Fund in 2005. Farris, one of Katherine’s high school classmates, has pledged the proceeds of the next three annual tournaments to the fund.
Freedom High School soccer coach David Fletcher holds an invitational tourney each year that adds to the endowment fund.