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Article - I really wish I could have thanked her

‘I really wish I could have thanked her’

UNMC student will never forget the name of a nurse from the past – Vela E. Stewart – who left a legacy for her and other future nurses.

Posted: Wed, Mar 14, 2018

She remembers the hospital room 16 winters ago.

She remembers being 12 again, watching family and friends flurry in and out of the room where her grandmother was dying.

Many of the memories are chaotic. But there’s one that isn’t.

“What stuck out most to us was, during that time, how kind the nurses were,” Lindsay Undeland said. 

Undeland thought about that years later when she dropped out of her graduate program in psychology, realizing that wasn’t her path. Instead, she found something was pulling her toward nursing. 

One day she decided to go for it. 

“When I started to think about nursing school, I did a ton of research on all the programs in the area and the one thing that stayed consistent was everyone said nothing but positive things about University of Nebraska Medical Center,” Undeland said. 

After her first interview there, she knew UNMC was where she wanted to go. 

And after she was accepted there, another miracle arrived in the form of an email. A message popped in her inbox. Congratulations ... appeared in the subject line.

“It said, ‘You’re a recipient of the Vella E. Stewart Scholarship Fund,’ and I actually started crying.” 

Up until that point, she’d expected to put herself through nursing school. Thinking back, that notion was not realistic.

“I think it’s been what’s made it possible,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to attend school without the generous help of others.”

And like the nurses she remembers from 16 years ago, the scholarship brought another amazing nursing mentor into her life — Vella E. Stewart herself, a longtime nurse. She died in 2009. 

Through her estate, Stewart gifted her farm to the University of Nebraska Foundation to benefit UNMC’s College of Nursing.

Undeland learned about Stewart’s generosity and her tenacity: Stewart performed anesthesia in people’s rural homes and once went from having her appendix removed one day to nursing patients the next.

Undeland also learned how much she had in common with Stewart, especially in the close relationship both had with their sisters who also wanted to be nurses.

“I think that just kind of made it even more special to me and feel a lot more personalized,” she said. “I really wish I could have thanked her.” 

If you, like Vella E. Stewart, would like to leave a legacy for students like Lindsay, please contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216. 

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