Katherine Wilson Scholarship

ABOUT THE FUND

Amanda Womble (L) and Katherine Wilson (R)

The Katherine Wilson Scholarship Fund is a lasting tribute to SON alumna Katherine Wilson, who graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Katherine overcame huge obstacles to earn the BSN while she fought a five-year battle with small cell lung cancer. She died at age 28 in 2005. (Katherine was not a smoker.) The Fund, created and driven by The Friends of Katherine Wilson, first aimed to raise $100,000. Friends and family members wanted to remember Katherine by providing undergraduate nursing students with the opportunity to pursue a career in nursing, Katherine’s chosen profession.

The Fund has grown to over $200,000, and awards scholarships each year. Based upon the wishes of Katherine and her family, the merit-based scholarship will be awarded to students who exemplify high academic achievement, desire to pursue a nursing career in end of life issues or oncology, and have overcome a significant obstacle in their lives. All ABSN and BSN students are eligible to apply. Applications are due in spring of each year and are available online.

For questions about the scholarship application process, contact Deanna Wilkie, Director of Alumni and Donor Relations at dwilkie@unc.edu or Kathy Moore, Assistant Dean of the Office of Student Affairs at Kathy Moore or (919) 966-4280.

TO APPLY

A Katherine Wilson scholar is selected each year. The application deadline for AY2021-22 has passed. Please check back for updates on next year’s scholarship.

Questions? Contact Deanna Wilkie, Director of Alumni and Donor Relations, at dwilkie@unc.edu.

About Katherine Wilson +

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.”

— Anne and John Wilson, April 23, 2005

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.

Tributes to Katherine +

Friends and family share stories and memories of Katherine, her time at UNC Chapel Hill School of Nursing and her battle with cancer.

This is only a sampling of the tributes the SON received about Katherine before and after she died. Some of what is said refers to the Wilson Family-Anne, John, JD and Fletcher and their influence and impact as friends and members of a close community.

“I first met Katherine Wilson as an applicant to our program. She had just suffered the loss of a significant boyfriend, perhaps her fiance, in an avalanche, and was planning to return home for the semester for healing and therapy. I was struck by her physical fragility, but also by her inner strength and her self-assessment skills evidenced by her understanding of her strengths and limitations. She was well aware of the need to heal herself before having something to give to the profession as a student nurse.

My next interaction with Katherine was after her diagnosis of lung cancer as she began to piece together a student life under these circumstances. At this time I met her family and friends. I was struck by the strong support her family was able to give her in the midst of crushing news. Twice I shepherded Katherine through independent studies as she explored her illness and its meaning for nursing care. The first, an evaluation of her nursing care as a cancer patient, reflected her analysis of best nursing practices. The second, done near the end of her program of study with us, reflected her perception of family and client needs during the long periods between acute phases of her illness.

Katherine chose to give of herself to the Lineberger Cancer Center during the last year of her illness to foster the development of services for families and patients. Her videotape and CD are available as she shares her illness experiences with others. She gave me these materials with the instructions that I could use them as I saw best for the furthering of nursing education.

During her illness, I have come to know Katherine quite well. As her illness progressed, so did grave illnesses in my own family, many of whom she met during Relay for Life. She always reaches out to give support, care and love even as she needs it for herself as she struggles bravely ahead. She has been a model for us all in her life, her approach to life’s grave circumstances, and her approach to her impending death. Her analysis of nursing care and patient needs, her desire to turn her illness for positive and lasting gain and her courage throughout leaves me with an indelible impression of her remarkable character and courage.”

— Professor Beverly Foster, January 18, 2005

“My name is Eliza Brooks and Katherine is my best friend. This is such a sad time for everyone. The scholarship is a wonderful way for everyone to show their love for Katherine. I would like to contribute to the scholarship monetarily as well as help document her truly amazing story. She is such an inspiration to all who know her and even those that have only heard of her wonderful spirit and love for life. Katherine’s graduation last May was a momentous occasion. She had been at Chapel Hill almost nine years and finally graduated with a nursing degree despite all obstacles that were presented. One of the many obstacles was/is her vision…Mrs. Wilson would read Katherine Wilson hundreds of pages of textbook material assigned per week because of her double vision. Anyone else would have given up but Kath was determined to succeed. There is so much to write about Katherine…it is so hard to put it all on paper. I will work on putting together a comprehensive story of our friendship.”

— Eliza Brooks

News about the Fund +

Katherine Wilson Scholarship Recipients

2020-2021
Shannon Cusick, Lauren Larison, and Rebecca Stovall

2019-2020
Hayley Nusser, Haleigh Somberg and Rebecca Stovall

2018–2019
Rebecca Fitzula, Hayler Nusser, and Haleigh Somberg

2017–2018
Harry Adams, Kelsey Brookreson, Madelyn Lewis, and Zachary Proctor

2016–2017
Harry Adams, Natalia Bradley, Madelyn Lewis, and Zachary Proctor

2015–2016
Ashley Brinkman, Nicole Gehmann, and Bailey White

2014–2015
Elise Blanton, Ashley Brinkman, and Nicole Gehmann

2013–2014
Melissa Robinson and Ellen Scherer

2011–2012
Joseph Biddix and Melissa Robinson

2010–2011
Joseph Biddix and Catherine Wintermeier
Melanie Ziff

2008–2009
Anneka Huegerich

2007–2008
Martha Gardner Anders (held the scholarship for two years)

2006–2007
Michelle Landin (held the scholarship for for two years)

In 2009, the endowment fund had grown enough to generate sufficient payout to begin to award one scholarship each year.  We also began accepting applications from accelerated BSN students who met the application criteria.  Anneka Huegerich and Melanie Ziff were both accelerated BSN students who were scholarship recipients.

From Michelle Landin, the first Katherine Wilson Scholar:

“When I learned I was chosen as the Katherine Wilson Scholar, I went into the SON website to read more about Katherine Wilson and her battle with cancer. I was inspired reading about her determination to become a nurse. As I looked through the pictures and read her story I could see that she touched many lives and was dearly loved by all who knew her. I couldn’t help but to feel a sense of pride and also a strong connection to Katherine,” said Michelle.“I was very excited and humbled to learn I was selected as the first recipient of the Katherine Wilson Scholarship. This is really an honor for me,” said Landin, who entered the two year nursing program after earning her bachelor’s in psychology from Carolina in May 2005.

Michelle said she always wanted to do something in health care. It wasn’t until after she was diagnosed with leukemia in August 1999, when she was a rising high school junior and undergoing cancer treatments, that she began to consider nursing as her career path.

In the summer of 1999, Michelle’s mother noticed that something wasn’t quite right with her daughter’s health. She couldn’t quite put a finger on it. Maybe the clue was that when Michelle bruised, she didn’t heal quickly. But, Michelle was a runner, exercised up and down bleachers and was the epitome of good health. Mrs. Landin cajoled Michelle to go to the doctor for a blood test. Three hours later the oncologist gave them the diagnosis.

During the weeks and months that followed while Michelle underwent chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and then a cord blood transplant, her family was always with her. Her mom took a long leave of absence from work, and her dad, grandpa and two older brothers took turns being with her in the hospital.

Since returning home, Michelle has not needed any further treatments and is considered cured. Michelle attributes her good health to the excellent medical care she received from Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg, a pioneer in cord blood transplantation, who practices at Duke University Medical Center.

“My nurses were wonderful,” said Michelle. “They took care of me without making me feel like I was sick. They had the experience to understand what I was going through without even having to ask. I believe they saved my life.”

Michelle said she wants to give back by becoming a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner. “It’s my way of thanking the people who gave me such good care.”

She said it feels good to look back and talk about her battle with leukemia. “I forgot how bad I felt then because I’m feeling so good now. I’m healthy now and ready to move on with my life. Back then, I needed to make goals to focus on the future, reminding myself that there would come a time when this would be all over.”

After two years of home-bound schooling, Michelle graduated from Cary High School and began classes at Carolina, where her older brother, Dennis, was also a student. It was a natural that she entered Carolina. “This is the place I should be,” Michelle said.

Michelle feels there are many similarities between her and Katherine Wilson. “I was in treatment when she was,” Michelle said. “It’s so draining, and to undergo what Katherine went through shows her courage and determination.”

“I saw a photo on the School’s Web site of Katherine and her dad, the one where both of their heads are shaved. My brother shaved his head with me and we have photos of us standing together too. I’m also the baby in the family. I have two older brothers, just like Katherine.”

Michelle is of Cuban heritage and a first generation American who speaks Spanish. She has jumped right into the nursing school experience by helping to translate for Latino patients during clinicals. “Communication is a big barrier, and my language skills have already helped bridge the gaps between patients and providers.”

The School of Nursing is honored that Michelle Landin is the first recipient of the Katherine Wilson Scholarship. She exemplifies all that Katherine would have wished for.