In the summer of 1951, twin sisters Gloria and Gwen Huss were visited by Ruth Boyles, a member of the new nursing faculty at Chapel Hill who traveled to Thomasville, NC, to recruit the twins for the first-ever Bachelor of Science in Nursing class at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Money was tight for their family, says Gloria Huss Peele, BSN ’55, and in their first year of nursing school, she and her sister, Gwen Huss Butler, BSN ’55, received something that made all the difference.
Fortunately, she says, “Gwen and I each received $50 from the financial aid program, and that $50 kept us in school.”
The gift toward their educational expenses might seem small, but it helped launch their lives and careers as nurses in ways that would impact generations to come. Gloria went on to teach nursing at Central Carolina Community College for 30 years and was director of the program for 10 of those years before she retired. Gwen became an administrator for a nursing facility and helped run Owen’s Pharmacy in Tryon, NC, with her husband Dean. (Gwen died in 2016.)
Between then, they would have nine children who saw the value of education, and of giving, through their mothers. And now, the family is paying it forward.
This year, Gloria’s son Rick Peele ‘80 and his wife Katherine Peele started the Gloria Peele and Gwen Butler Dean’s Discretionary Fund at the UNC School of Nursing, which allows the School to direct funding where it is needed most. A fund that the School can use for day-to-day expenses, renovations, equipment, or any needs as the Dean sees fit, helps meet a critical need they see in light of pressing challenges, such as state budget cuts that impact universities.
“We both worked and had loans in college,” says Rick, “so we know what it means to need something. My mother and my aunt have such an inspiring story, and they’ve given us so much that we wanted to do something to honor that.”
For this year’s GiveUNC on March 30, Rick and Katherine are challenging the School’s alumni, donors and friends to make a gift to a fund close to their hearts. If just 100 donors give to any area of the School during the campaign, they will contribute $50,000 to their new fund.
“Rick and I both feel very grateful for the great education we received at North Carolina schools, and you get to a point in your life where you really want to think about giving back,” says Katherine, who attended N.C. State University. “There’s such a great value in the education that we received, and that Gloria and Gwen received, which benefited their families growing up.”
Their challenge includes gifts of all amounts, Katherine says. Like Gwen and Gloria’s $50, gifts of all sizes have a measurable impact on those who receive that support.
“Our hope is that we can encourage more people to get in the habit of giving, particularly young alumni who are just starting out,” she says. “To start a practice of giving, even a small amount, is something you will think about every year, and as your career grows, you can think about growing your gifts as you can. It’s so important to stay connected.”
“To start a practice of giving, even a small amount, is something you will think about every year, and as your career grows, you can think about growing your gifts as you can. It’s so important to stay connected.”
The Class of 1955 has continued to hold the School close, says Gloria, and, for her, that legacy continues in Rick and Katherine’s daughter Cameron, who will enter the nursing school this fall. She says she is “very humbled” by her family’s gift to honor her and her sister and to support a place that has been at the center of her life.
“The friendships I made at the nursing school were invaluable, and of course, I thank Carolina for my education. I’m excited that nursing education will carry on through Cameron and keep our connection to Chapel Hill,” says Gloria. “I’m excited to see the changes through her eyes and hear her story.”