UMass College of Nursing receives $21.5M gift

  • Ann Dolan, a senior in the College of Nursing at UMass, administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Johnny Yem, a staffer at the Campus Center, as part of her clinical rotation in the vaccine clinic at the Public Health Promotion Center on Sept. 16. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Skinner Hall on North Pleasant Street in Amherst, seen Sept. 13, is the home of the the University of Massachusetts’ College of Nursing. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING


  • Allison Vorderstrasse, dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is shown at Skinner Hall on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Megan Hosmer, left, and Bethany Murphy, seniors in the College of Nursing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, assemble COVID-19 self test kits as part of their clinical rotation at the Public Health Promotion Center on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • UMass Amherst College of Nursing Dean Allison Vorderstrasse UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST

Staff Writer
Monday, September 27, 2021

AMHERST — UMass Amherst has received a “transformative” and record-breaking $21.5 million gift for its College of Nursing that will offer new opportunities to advance innovation in the field and provide funding for more students to pursue nursing careers.

The gift from the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Charitable Foundation is the largest in UMass Amherst history, the university announced Sept. 16. The nursing school will become the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing, in honor of the late Northampton educator known as an influential author of anatomy and physiology textbooks.

The gift will support the Center of Nursing and Engineering Innovation, along with student scholarships, an endowed professorship, efforts to increase student enrollment, “and mentorship and research initiatives designed to further access, equity and excellence in nursing education,” the university said in a statement.

At the Center of Nursing and Engineering Innovation, interdiscplinary teams conduct research around the role of technology in the health care field, working to develop new products and encouraging the inclusion of nurses’ input in the testing and design of medical devices.

UMass Amherst alumni Michael and Theresa Hluchyj provided the initial $1 million in seed money for the center in May.

“What we are doing here is such a strong match with the innovative nature of Elaine Marieb’s legacy,” said Allison Vorderstrasse, dean of the College of Nursing. “The foundation’s gift is evidence of the stature of our program and the impact we have on our students and the community.”

Nationwide impact

Marieb was considered one of the most influential nursing educators in the country, the university said, and more than 3 million health care professionals working today have read her textbooks and laboratory manuals.

In 2016, she ranked seventh on Time magazine’s list of the “100 Most Read Female Writers in College Classes.” Others in the top 10 included “Frankenstein” author Mary Shelley, Toni Morrison and Jane Austen.

Marieb earned her bachelor’s degree from Westfield State College at age 28, then earned a master’s degree in biology at Mount Holyoke College and a Ph.D. in zoology from UMass Amherst. She also taught at Springfield College and Holyoke Community College.

Her academic focus shifted to nursing after she heard complaints from nursing students that their textbooks and other learning materials were inadequate. Marieb enrolled in HCC’s nursing program, graduating with an associate’s degree in 1980, then earned a bachelor’s in nursing from Fitchburg State College and a master’s in nursing and gerontology from UMass in 1985.

She died in 2018 at age 82.

Legacy of giving

Marieb was a steady donor to area education programs. She had previously given more than $2 million to UMass Amherst for campuswide scholarships.

In 2014, she gave $1 million for the construction of HCC’s Center for Health Education and Center for Life Sciences, and in 2019, her estate donated $1 million toward support programs for nontraditional-age students at HCC.

“The Elaine Nicpon Marieb Foundation is excited to expand the legacy of Elaine Marieb,” said Martin Wasmer, a foundation trustee. “The innovative nursing engineering program currently being launched at the university was clearly the catalyst for capturing the interest of the foundation and is consistent with Elaine’s own spirit of innovation in learning.”

Vorderstrasse, the college dean, said that there remains a nationwide nursing shortage, and that the nursing profession as a whole is not generally diverse. The gift will help the college “promote access and equity among the nursing profession,” Vorderstrasse said, while encouraging people to enter the profession earlier in life and positioning nurses as leaders in public health policy.

UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said the university is “deeply grateful” for the gift.

“This gift is an endorsement of the vital role that our College of Nursing plays in preparing nurses for leadership in health care,” Subbaswamy said. “It comes at a time when our society is confronted with unprecedented challenges — challenges that we strive to overcome through innovation, learning and discovery inspired by one of our most distinguished and beloved graduates, Dr. Marieb herself.”

Last week, the Morningside Foundation donated $175 million to UMass Medical School in Worcester, the largest-ever unrestricted gift to the University of Massachusetts system. That donation came six days after UMass board of trustees Chairman Robert Manning and his wife, Donna Manning, set the all-time record with a $50 million donation to the statewide system.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.