Waddell-Schultz’s lifelong giving breaks down financial barriers for today’s students

Gwen H. Waddell-Schultz, BSN ‘70, MSN ’76, knows what it’s like to be a student, dealing with a demanding course load and the advent of adulthood, all while making ends meet.

She arrived at Carolina’s nursing school as a first-generation college student in 1966, where she received care packages of food that her mother and aunt would send from their home in Oxford, N.C. She’d grant herself one splurge – on Thursday nights she and her friends would go to The Zoom Zoom on Franklin Street to fill up on $3 all-you-can-eat spaghetti.

The particulars of college life may have changed, but Waddell-Schultz knows there will always be students just like her: future nurses who are piecing together an education with student loans and financial aid, an equation that can easily change from year-to-year. By her junior year, Waddell-Schultz qualified for a James M. Johnston scholarship that reduced her dependence on loans and lifted some of her worries. She was relieved that, because of the scholarship, the payments that would begin soon after graduation would be manageable.

For this reason, Waddell-Schultz, a longtime supporter of the School, including the current Campaign for Carolina Nursing, directs her giving to scholarships for students who may have a gap between what they can pay and what financial aid they receive, so that they can focus on the experiences of nursing school instead of financial stress.

“With each check I wrote to pay down my student loan, I thought about how grateful I was to have a nursing degree from North Carolina’s premier university,” says Waddell-Schultz, who received the School’s Alumna of the Year award in 1998 and was the keynote speaker at the 2018 School of Nursing White Coat Ceremony. “Supporting students is a way I can demonstrate my loyalty to the University and express how much I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had because of my degree.”

Not all nursing students follow the same path, she says, which means some arrive at the School with circumstances that make private giving to support them all the more necessary: many already have families to feed and support, or they may worry each semester if they’ll be able to return. Students from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences, with a variety of skill sets and abilities, are valuable additions to the field of nursing, says Waddell-Schultz. Providing access to a nursing degree for those worthy students who may think Carolina is out of their reach is one way she can live out Carolina’s mission of service to the state.

“It is very competitive to get into Carolina,” she says. “Many students have experiences where they’ve lost their scholarships or can’t pay rent. Some struggle to have enough food. I believe very strongly that students shouldn’t have to face such incredible stresses while they are here to learn. They have earned their places here, and I want to do what I can to make it possible for them to obtain their nursing degrees and join the nursing profession with the same passion as I have enjoyed these many years.”