Bill Conway congratulates Scholastica Ibezimako, a Conway Scholar, on completing her nursing education at the 2017 graduation ceremony.
A $20 million donation, the largest single gift in the history of The Catholic University of America, will create the new Conway School of Nursing, University President John Garvey announced. The renaming of the nursing school recognizes Bill and Joanne Conway's $40 million in total support — also the largest amount in University history from a single benefactor — of the nursing program, established in 1935 and ranked today among the best in the nation.
Of the Conways' total giving, $20 million has funded, and will continue to fund, full and partial scholarships for nursing students. The Conway Scholars program started in 2014 and is now supporting its third cohort, 15 students that started classes in August 2018.
The program also includes a dedicated position for a faculty mentor who works with Conway Scholars throughout their studies, and a review course to prepare them for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN©) that they take after graduation. In 2018, more than 98 percent of all Catholic University nursing graduates taking the NCLEX exam for the first time passed, a "monumental accomplishment," according to nursing school Dean Patricia McMullen.
All of the 22 Conway Scholars to graduate so far are now fully employed in nursing.
The couple’s latest $20 million commitment will partially fund a new nursing and sciences building that will be erected next to Father O'Connell Hall on campus.
Bill Conway, a member of the University's Board of Trustees and co-founder and co-executive chairman of The Carlyle Group, said he and his wife remain focused on a goal to produce 10,000 nurses in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia in answer to a range of health care needs and persistent shortage of nurses in the United States.
"The majority of our philanthropy has been directed toward this purpose," said Conway. "We have been so pleased with the exceptional quality of Catholic University-educated nurses and can see the tremendous impact they will each have on thousands of patients throughout their careers. While we have generally been very focused on scholarships, when we learned that the main obstacle to producing more of these great nurses was the University's current facilities, we knew we had to invest in a new building."
President Garvey expressed the appreciation of the entire Catholic University community for this transformative gift.
"Bill and Joanne's gift will enable us to double the size of our school to more than 700 students. That means doubling the number of nurses we graduate each year after the new building has been opened," he said. "Our School of Nursing has long been a source of great pride to the University. We are so grateful to Bill and Joanne for all they have done to contribute to its success. It will be an honor to have the school bear the names of these wonderful benefactors and friends."
Dean McMullen added, "Most of the students who received Conway Scholarships could not have gone to college, let alone nursing school. The nursing profession owes a great debt of gratitude to Bill and Joanne. It is a privilege that our School of Nursing will be named in their honor."
Graceann Kraemer, a 2017 graduate from Madison, Conn., says the opportunity to study at the Catholic University School of Nursing provided her with "the knowledge base and values that led to the job of my dreams." She is currently working on the neuroscience/neurosurgery unit at Children’s National Health System. Her Conway Scholarship, she adds, enabled her "to put down roots in D.C. It’s hard to come up with the words to describe the impact that this gift has had on my life. I’m so grateful."
Regarding his frequent visits to campus and interaction with the Conway Scholars, Emily Tighe, a rising senior from Newton, N.J., noted the "good advice that Mr. Conway always has for us. He’s empathetic and touches on his own experiences as a way to help us. He spends a lot of time with us."
Born in China, Tighe was adopted when she was seven months old by a single mom. When she was 13, her mother passed away suddenly. Without her scholarship, Tighe says, she would not be a Catholic University student. Nor would she have participated in this year's spring break trip to Puerto Rico as part of the Spanish for Health Care Certificate Program or spent a semester at Australian Catholic University. "The Conway Scholarship has been a huge help," Tighe says.
Both Bill and Joanne Conway received honorary degrees from the University in 2017 in recognition of their generosity that "enables students who lack the financial resources to receive an education that directly affects the lives of patients in the region."
Planning for the new nursing and sciences building has already commenced and an event to celebrate the newly renamed Conway School of Nursing will be scheduled for the fall semester.