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NDMU Receives $1.5 Million Gift to Fund Endowed Chair in School of Nursing

July 10, 2014

Notre Dame of Maryland University has received a $1.5 million gift from The Pitts Family Foundation, among the largest gifts received from a university alumna, that will fund the first endowed chair in the University’s School of Nursing.

The Frances Kay Pitts Endowed Chair for Nursing Leadership and Innovation will provide funding for scholarship, research and special projects in the School of Nursing.

Mrs. Pitts graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1996 from Notre Dame and subsequently earned a Master of Science degree from Georgetown University, becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife in 1999 as part of a 37-year nursing career. Her husband, James F. Pitts, retired in 2012 from the Northrop Grumman Corporation as a Corporate Vice President and President of the Electronic Systems Sector.

“I am overjoyed at this generous gift from the Pitts Family Foundation that honors our distinguished graduate and my very good friend, Kay Pitts,” said Joan Develin Coley, Ph.D., who recently completed her term of service as president to Notre Dame. “This endowed chair will help to pass on Kay’s love of nursing to a new generation of exceptional and compassionate Notre Dame nurses and is especially fitting as we welcome Dr. Marylou Yam, a distinguished higher education leader and nurse, as Notre Dame’s 14th president.”

Dr. Yam, who assumed the presidency of Notre Dame on July 1, began her career as a nurse and a nursing educator, and she is still a licensed registered nurse.

Dean Katharine C. Cook, PhD, RN, said the gift comes at an auspicious time for the School of Nursing. “Our school is rapidly expanding and this gift will enrich the learning experience for our students and help to enhance our program,” she said. “In addition, it will support faculty scholarship.”

Mrs. Pitts noted that while she studied at Notre Dame, she continued working as a nurse at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center while raising her family. She took classes at the Weekend College when she could and eventually finished her degree after 15 years.

“Life happens, things happen, but I persevered,” she said. “I had a wonderful group of friends and family. The faculty was very committed to helping students like me to stick with it and was very devoted to the adult learner. They wouldn’t give up on us.”

During a recent visit to Notre Dame, Mrs. Pitts said she was extremely impressed by the nursing school’s Center for Caring with Technology, which uses sophisticated simulation experiences to aid students in developing essential nursing skills, while also enabling them to practice and feel first-hand the exhilarating human experience of caring.

“These students will be prepared when they enter the workplace. It’s amazing to see the level of technology that is helping them to learn the many skills you need as a nurse,” she said. “To think that this endowed chair will enable these opportunities to expand even more, it’s exciting for me. It makes me proud to be part of it. And it seems fitting to make this gift as Dr. Yam, with her background in nursing, begins serving as Notre Dame’s president.”

Notre Dame of Maryland University is one of the region’s top educators of registered nurses, and more than 95 percent of its graduates work in Maryland hospitals and health care facilities. The School of Nursing has prepared nearly 2,000 nurses, nurse administrators and nurse educators over the past three decades. Entry-level, RN to BSN, and master’s programs challenge women and men to strive for intellectual and professional excellence, to build inclusive communities, to engage in service to others, and to promote social responsibility.

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Notre Dame of Maryland University was founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame more than 100 years ago. Based on the progressive vision that education can transform the world, we prepare compassionate leaders to transform the world. NDMU’s School of Nursing offers a rigorous clinical education, through its Center for Caring with Technology, grounded in a caring curriculum. Visit our website, ndm.edu, for more information.