Pennsylvania’s Butler County Community College (BC3) has received a $1 million commitment from Janice Phillips Larrick, matching the two highest gifts in the college’s 52-year history and representing the third such donation in the past 38 months.
The commitment from Larrick, a former BC3 student, follows her $50,000 gift in March that also will benefit what BC3 President Nick Neupauer calls the school’s “hallmark” program – its highly competitive registered nursing program that accepts only 70 of its more than 200 annual applicants.
As a former student at the college, Larrick understands its mission and role in the community, and her previous gifts have already created opportunities for nursing students, Neupauer said.
“This latest gift will go even further. The impact will be felt for years, not only on our main campus, but in local hospitals, doctors’ offices and in long-term care facilities,” he said.
The $1 million gift to the BC3 Education Foundation follows that of Robert R. Heaton, whose 2014 commitment was used to fund what became the $6.4 million Heaton Family Learning Commons, which opened in 2016. It also follows a $1 million contribution from John L. Wise III and family, whose 2016 gift is being used to fund the $2.3 million Amy Wise Children’s Creative Learning Center, which is scheduled to open in January.
“It is pretty unusual for a community college to receive this level of support,” noted Ruth Purcell, executive director of the foundation.
Larrick worked 10 years as a registered nurse following her graduation from a three-year program at Butler Memorial Hospital. As a mother of nine, she later continued her education at the University of Pittsburgh, Westminster College and, in 1967-1968, BC3.
“I think it is a wonderful school,” Larrick said of BC3. “I attended there for a short time when I was going to get my nursing degree. And I had some of the best teaching and teachers I have ever had. They seemed to be truly dedicated.”
Among them today, Larrick said, is Patricia Annear, who served 18 years as a faculty member before becoming BC3’s dean of nursing and allied health.
“Good nurses can tell what makes a good nurse. I think she appreciates the people who have attended there and have gone on and done more,” she said.
Test- and work-ready
So rigorous is her program that only 70 percent of the 70 students admitted each year complete the program, Annear said. Forty-seven were graduated in May.
Of the 46 graduates in the Class of 2017 who since May have sat for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, 44 have passed – representing a success rate of 96 percent and exceeding the state average of 84 percent, Annear said.
“Many educational institutions focus on numbers of students,” said Annear, adding that she receives calls almost daily from recruiters seeking more BC3-educated nurses. “(But) we focus on the quality of our education. We realize that the students we are turning out are responsible for human life.”
Larrick’s gift in March helped to create a realistic hospital room within a simulation lab inside BC3’s Business & Health Professions building, and to empower BC3’s students to ameliorate life-threatening scenarios presented by a computerized patient.
“With each scenario being taught I could not help but notice how the level of confidence increased in the students,” Annear said. “They no longer were afraid of being in the scenario, but were excited about how much more they were prepared for their roles in the clinical setting.”
The Janice Phillips Larrick Scholarship, created in 2002, has helped 23 students at BC3 and is among nine BC3 registered nursing scholarships with annual awards ranging from $350 to $1,700, according to Michelle Jamieson, associate director of the college’s foundation.
With the scholarship, Kasandra Williams, 20, was able to reduce the number of hours she works as a nurse’s aide at a hospital to concentrate on the registered nursing program. Like Larrick, Williams applauds the devotion of BC3’s nursing instructors.
“I have all of my professors’ cell phone numbers,” Williams said. “If I ever have a question I can text them. They make themselves available to you. They have office hours in which they will also come in early for you. If they see you struggling, they approach you. They know you as a person.”
In 2016, BC3 teamed with Chatham University, Pittsburgh to allow BC3 graduates with an associate degree to pursue a bachelor’s degree in registered nursing at the university. The partnership has attracted four BC3 graduates this fall. Williams said she plans to take advantage of the partnership following her graduation from BC3 next spring.
Owning the accomplishments
The BC3 foundation last week presented Larrick with a rare 1932 British Red Cross service medal during an informal celebration.
“I think we point with pride to accomplishment,” Larrick said of BC3’s donors. “And I think the whole community has to share in that accomplishment. The people feel they own a part of it.”
Larrick credited the bringing together of donors to the college president, noting that Neupauer’s “leadership, visibility in the community and genuine commitment to the college and our students,” which “provides a level of confidence that is reflected in our increasing private investment.”