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Article - UNK professor creates scholarship in honor of her mothers life

UNK professor creates scholarship in honor of her mother's life

UNK professor creates scholarship in honor of her mother's life

Endowed scholarship fund will support pre-nursing students forever

Posted: Wed, Nov 16, 2011

Pre-nursing students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney benefit from a new permanently endowed scholarship fund created especially with them in mind.

Dr. Janet Steele, professor of biology at UNK, established the fund with a $25,000 gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation and named it in honor of her mother for the many accomplishments she made throughout her life.

Steele said she hopes the Harriett J. Steele Nursing Scholarship especially helps students who might not otherwise be able to afford to attend college.

"One factor that sets students up for failure in college is not having enough time to devote to their studies due to outside responsibilities, including work," Steele said. "Perhaps the scholarship will allow students to have more success in the classroom by having to work fewer hours per week at a job in order to pay their tuition."

Steele's father, Sidney, taught chemistry at Eastern Illinois University from 1947 to 1985 and established a scholarship there in his own name. This gave Janet Steele the inspiration to create a scholarship in her mother's name.

"I always felt my mother's name should have been included on the scholarship, because she was important to his success as a university professor," Steele said. "When I was able to do so, I decided to establish a separate scholarship in her name at UNK."

Scholarships will be awarded by the Health Sciences Program and College of Natural and Social Sciences at UNK. Eligible recipients must have successfully completed a minimum of 18 credit hours, including a biology or chemistry course, and preference will be given to nontraditional students who express financial need and a desire to pursue a career in nursing. Candidates must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above.

The gift of this scholarship also supports the University of Nebraska's current fundraising initiative, the Campaign for Nebraska: Unlimited Possibilities. One of the campaign's priorities is to increase support for student scholarships at UNK.

Janet Steele said her grandfather encouraged all of his children to go to college. This determination led Janet's mother, Harriett, to be one of only a few female students to graduate from The Ohio State University in the 1940s.

Harriett Nelms was studying microbiology when she met her husband, Sidney Steele. He was a doctoral student who served as the teaching assistant in one of her chemistry classes. They married in 1944 and lived in Louisville, Ky., where he worked for the Girdler Chemical Company until the end of WWII. After Sidney received a teaching position at Eastern Illinois State Normal School in Charleston, Ill., the couple resided there for the rest of their lives.

When their two children were older, Harriett worked as a laboratory assistant in the chemistry department for what is now Eastern Illinois University. The couple retired in 1986 and enjoyed traveling locally and abroad for many years.

Janet Steele said education was very important in her parents' lives, and they encouraged others, regardless of age, to continue their education.  

The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization that has connected the dreams and passions of donors to the mission of the university for more than 75 years. In 2011, donors gave a record $172 million in gifts for scholarships, academic programs, medical research and other priorities at the university. The foundation's $1.2 billion fundraising initiative, the Campaign for Nebraska: Unlimited Possibilities, concludes in 2014.

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