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USF benefactor 'bursting' with pride to see money in action

7/28/2014, 9:34 p.m.
Leon Wirt's wife endowed a scholarship for nursing students when she died in 2008.
University of St. Francis Leach College of Nursing Dean Carol Wilson explains nursing simulation lab capabilities to benefactor, Leon Wirt, who established a scholarship in the name of his late wife Jeanette A. Wirt. Courtesy of the University of St. Francis

University of St. Francis in Joliet provided this account of Leon Wirt's visit to the school to see how his late wife's endowment was helping nursing students:

The care given by nursing students from the University of St. Francis (USF) so impressed Jeanette A. Wirt that she endowed a scholarship to ensure that future generations of nurses would continue to receive a quality education.

Mrs. Wirt, of Joliet, who died in 2008 after a battle with cancer, donated more than $250,000 from her estate to nursing scholarships. “She talked with the nurses and students while she was in the hospital to learn more about their lives and where they came from,” said her husband, Leon. “She was all heart,” he said. “When she came home from the hospital, she said I want to help the nurses and nursing program.”

USF President Arvid Johnson and Carol Wilson, dean of the Leach College of Nursing, greeted Wirt during a recent visit to the university. “Scholarships for our students are critical,” said Johnson. “About 96 percent of our students receive financial assistance. And, with 68 percent of our last freshman class being the first in their families to attend college, scholarship support is absolutely essential to their success.”

University of St. Francis Leach College of Nursing Dean Carol Wilson explains nursing simulation lab capabilities to benefactor, Leon Wirt, who established a scholarship in the name of his late wife Jeanette A. Wirt.

University of St. Francis Leach College of Nursing Dean Carol Wilson explains nursing simulation lab capabilities to benefactor, Leon Wirt, who established a scholarship in the name of his late wife Jeanette A. Wirt.

Nurses are also among the highest need for professions in our area, added Johnson. “This is a wonderful legacy and a wonderful gift to the future that Mrs. and Mr. Wirt have provided. It will support nurses long into the future.”

“USF has educated three generations of caring and highly skilled nurses,” said Wilson. “At USF, students receive one of the finest nursing educations available, preparing nurses to be a competent clinicians and advocates for their patients. Mrs. Wirt not only experienced this legacy, she is making it possible for future nurses to carry on.”

USF nursing students learn to work with state-of-the-art technology and equipment, but also to be ethical and caring health care providers, said Wilson, who gave Wirt a tour of the university’s Cecily & John Leach College of Nursing on July 18. She demonstrated the college’s simulation and skills labs. Wirt also met with faculty members and master of science in nursing students who were making presentations at their annual Scholarship Day.

“I’m so proud and excited about what my wife’s legacy will mean to the future that I could burst,” said Wirt.

Mrs. Wirt’s estate is from the 210-acre Sing Farm property that extended from Black Road to Jefferson Street and is now a major commercial area for Joliet. The farm was begun in 1904 by her parents Henry and Leora Sing.