Bedford Falls Foundation gives $2.1M to UIC College of Nursing

William “Bill” Conway Jr. (Photo: William “Bill” Conway Jr.)
William “Bill” Conway Jr. began the Bedford Falls Foundation, which has gifted the UIC College of Nursing $2.1 million. (Photo: Bill Conway Jr.)

Student success is the aim of a $2.1 million gift to the UIC College of Nursing from the Bedford Falls Foundation.

The gift will go toward three funds at the UIC College of Nursing: a scholarship program for nursing students earning a bachelor of science degree, a summer prep program for incoming pre-licensure students and a student emergency fund.

The Bedford Falls Foundation, a private foundation started by Carlyle Group co-founder and co-chairman William “Bill” E. Conway Jr. and his late wife, Joanne, focuses its philanthropy on nursing education.

The foundation has made gifts to roughly 20 nursing schools, mostly in the mid-Atlantic states. The UIC College of Nursing is the first recipient in the Midwest.

UIC Chancellor Marie Lynn Miranda was instrumental in making the connection between the Bedford Falls Foundation and the UIC College of Nursing.

“When I learned about Bedford Falls Foundation’s commitment to supporting nursing education and advancing social mobility, I saw tremendous alignment between the foundation and UIC,” Miranda said. “Our mission at UIC is to provide the broadest access to the highest levels of educational, research and clinical excellence — and this gift will help us do just that.”

Familial ties prompted the foundation to seek a partnership in Chicago. Conway earned his MBA in finance from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. His son, Bill Conway III, is an alderman in Chicago, and his daughter-in-law, Brittany Conway, is an alum of the University of Illinois Chicago and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

“Nurses are essential to America’s health, and schools like the UIC College of Nursing are positioned to prepare more well-qualified nurses to meet the nation’s healthcare needs,” Conway said. “By reducing the financial burden for students at the UIC College of Nursing, we hope those students can focus on their academics and find success in the program and their careers as nurses.”

The new Joanne and William Conway Nursing Scholarship will be targeted at bachelors-degree nursing students with demonstrated financial need. The scholarships are intended to allow Conway Scholars to work fewer hours at outside jobs, take out fewer loans, focus more on their studies and graduate with less or no student debt.

The UIC College of Nursing is committed to educating and graduating a diversity of students, including those who are economically disadvantaged, so the pool of working nurses represents the population at large.

The Bedford Falls gift also will sustain a College of Nursing pilot program called the Pre-licensure Readiness Education Program for Aspiring Registered Nurses. Formerly known as PREPARE, it will be renamed the Bill and Brittany Conway PREPARE program. The foundation was drawn to the innovative program, a mostly virtual summer prep course for students entering the bachelor’s and master’s degree programs for non-registered nurses.

“The Bedford Falls gift will allow us to continue offering this critical program free of charge, ensuring that all our incoming pre-licensure students are prepared for the rigors of nursing school,” College of Nursing Dean Eileen Collins said. “We know that some of our students lost academic ground during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re still seeing the effects of that, particularly in our foundational science courses. This gift will allow us to assess students before they even begin our program and fill in knowledge gaps so they’re ready to hit the ground running.”

Lastly, the gift will allow UIC College of Nursing to establish a student emergency fund called the Joanne Barkett Conway Student Emergency Fund. Students who experience a financial emergency beyond their control and which would jeopardize their education will be able to apply for assistance from the fund. These needs could include such things as sudden changes to housing or transportation that could cause a student to drop out.

“I know from my own educational experiences at the University of Illinois what a transformative environment it can be,” said Brittany Conway, who received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2011 and her law degree from UIC Law in 2014. “I’m pleased that this gift will be able to help nursing students succeed in their academic pursuits and graduate, going on to fill much-needed roles in the nursing workforce.”

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