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A Legacy of Giving


Hazel Robertson started giving to the University of Utah College of Nursing gradually.

In 1998, she set aside $10,000 to establish a scholarship endowment named after herself and her husband—the Jack R. and Hazel M. Robertson Scholarship Fund.

“Since I always wanted to be a nurse, this was my choice for a little help to others who qualify and are willing to serve,” Ms. Robertson wrote at the time, in perfect penmanship and on delicate stationery.

Originally, she planned on giving $10,000 a year. But in January 1999, she followed up with $40,000. The next June, she added a $30,000 gift. By 2013, the Robertson scholarship fund had more than $360,000 in it. At her death at the age of 98 last year, Ms. Robertson’s estate added another $700,000, bringing the total endowment to more than $1.6 million. Over the years, dozens of College of Nursing students have received Robertson scholarships.

While Ms. Robertson’s gift is larger than most, annual scholarship donations to the college start as small as $1 or $5. Each year, about $1 million in individual donations and interest accrues in endowments established to generate ongoing funding for student scholarships. During the 2017-2018 school year, the college awarded just over $1 million for student traineeships and undergraduate and graduate scholarships. More than 130 students received some form of stipend.

For some scholarship donors, the motivation to help other students is broad. Others target their support to particular specialties. Some give to honor family members.

Longtime Development Board and Advisory Council member Carl Laurella and former Nursing Early Assurance Program (NEAP) Director and Alumni Board member Vanessa Laurella, PhD, RN, have supported the college over many years—including sponsoring NEAP students at Honors for Nursing, renovating the third-floor reception area, and establishing the endowed Vanessa Brown Laurella Pathfinder Scholarship to support first-generation college students in nursing. (The Ophelia Flores Laurella Pathfinder Scholarship for first-generation students in the College of Humanities is named in honor of Mr. Laurella’s mother.)

“At the core, it’s because we both are first-generation college graduates,” says Dr. Laurella, who graduated from Idaho State University in 1980, then received a Master’s in Nursing Administration from the college in 1986, and a PhD in 1996. “Our education has been the catalyst to provide us with great opportunities in our lives.”

Although he has limited connections to nursing, Mark Griswold was inspired to give after a family tragedy. The owner of an electrical company in Huntington Beach decided to establish a scholarship at the college on behalf of his niece, who lost her pre-term son, Henry Barraclough, at 19 weeks’ gestation after suffering a placental abruption and undergoing an emergency Caesarean section in April 2017 while living in Italy.

“For some reason, it just touched my soul,” Mr. Griswold says. “As a dad, as a grand-dad, as a man, when you can’t fix something, when it’s immediately in front of you, I tend to drive this way. This is where the rubber hits the road for me: Maybe we can save someone from losing another child this way.”

Mr. Griswold’s daughter Natalie will graduate from the college in May 2018 with a master’s degree in science and public health.

Over time, Mr. and Mrs. Robertson were benefactors in many areas at the University of Utah, with endowed scholarships for the Department of Orthopaedics and the College of Health’s Physical Therapy Division. They established endowed chairs in Orthopaedics, at the John A. Moran Eye Center and Huntsman Cancer Institute.

But nursing was personal for Ms. Robertson.

“Hazel has a heart of gold willing to reach out and benefit those most in need,” Ms. Robertson’s 1999 gift agreement with the college states.

“She had a desire to become a nurse herself, but because of financial limitations facing her, she was unable to do so. She helped and cared for family. She is now able to help others receive that nursing education that she so desired to have.”