Doing good

A historic scholarship gift makes a mark

graphical representation of three happy v.c.u. nursing students

More than 500 students have been the beneficiary of a nursing scholarship at VCU established by philanthropist Bill Conway and his late wife, Joanne, through their Bedford Falls Foundation donor advised fund. The Conways' gifts to the school total more than $19 million and have funded tuition support and academic coaching for students since 2019.

The inspiration behind the Conways’ gifts to fund nursing education came from the community. Through a pair of op-ed pieces in the Washington Post in 2011, the Conways invited the public to help them identify the most impactful use for their philanthropy. The call generated thousands of emails and letters to the couple and the responses included a number of common proposals–charitable projects, provisions for social services and starter funds to address community needs. One suggestion stood out and neatly aligned with the Conways’ inclination to support education or training for already-existing but vacant jobs. “Nursing is a field where if a person can get a degree, they can always get a job,” said Bill Conway.


Since that time, the McLean, Virginia based couple made gifts to 15 nursing schools in the mid-Atlantic region. The majority of those dollars have funded scholarships for nursing students. ”Removing financial barriers to pursuing a nursing degree means more nurses in the workforce, which is good for the nurses who now have jobs and also good for the region, which has a critical nursing shortage,” said Conway.

“The impact that the Conways’ gifts have made on our programs cannot be overstated,” said Jean Giddens, Ph.D., professor and dean of the VCU School of Nursing. “The biggest barrier our students face in completing our programs is funding their education. Because of this generous support, we remove that obstacle so they can earn their degree and enter into the profession.”

With each degree earned, the ripple effects of the Conway Scholarship grow, strengthening the health care landscape, bolstering the workforce pipeline and making an indelible mark on a generation of VCU-educated nurses.

Meet the Conway Scholars

Scholarship recipients reflect on what the investment in their education means for them and their future

ciara akil
Ciara Akil

I have always wanted to work in healthcare, but the thing that really drove me to pursue nursing was the diversity of the field and the amount of hands-on care that nurses give to their patients. 

Ciara Akil

In previous semesters I have had to work full time in addition to attending school in order to pay all my bills. This semester I was able to reduce my hours to part-time and have been able to focus more of my time on school. This scholarship has taken so much stress off of my life and helped me improve my grades. I have been able to maintain a healthy work-school life balance, which has allowed me to thrive in my first semester of nursing school.

Camryn Brown

camryn brown
Camryn Brown

Knowing that someone is willing to invest in me and my education means that I will be able to make a change in the lives of patients and families, and that’s what drew me to nursing.

Kadeem Bedward

I worked in a skilled/long term care facility as a certified nursing assistant during the COVID-19 pandemic, and during that time I got to experience what it was like to care for an underserved population. It was in this experience that I met a woman and seeing how much of a difference my small daily actions made on her outlook and experience made me want to do more for her holistically. It was my interactions with her that inspired me to become a nurse.

Nia Vaughan

I was initially drawn to nursing after having a health scare in the summer of 2019. As someone who was raised to not trust healthcare professionals, I was very anxious when I was admitted to the hospital and wasn’t sure whether or not I would be okay. The care that I received from the nurses showed me a side of healthcare that I never knew. I was amazed at the skill that they possessed and the kindness they displayed. During my stay, my interest was sparked as I saw that it was a very fulfilling job and one where I could help others.

Reayah Van Horne