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Upstate Nursing Alumni Association receives historic $105,000 gift to establish nursing scholarship endowment

The Nursing Alumni Association has received a $105,000 gift from Rev. Donald Byers to establish the Virginia B. Byers, PhD, Nursing Scholarship Endowment, the largest gift in the history of College of Nursing history. A portion of the gift will be placed in a restricted fund with the same name to provide scholarships while the endowment matures.

Virginia “Jinny” Byers spent 40 years in nursing education at six institutions and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA). She retired in 1996 as professor emeritus with the Upstate College of Nursing. Jinny Byers died in August 2021 at the age of 92.

Jinny Byers was born and raised in Winston-Salem, N.C., as one of nine children; her family didn’t have the financial resources to pay for higher education. Her older sister was a nurse and suggested that she pursue a career in the same field upon graduating high school. She even offered Jinny Byers a $2,000 loan to pay for tuition, but it came with two conditions: that Jinny would need to attend an all-women’s school and, that she could not spend the money on cigarettes (a booming industry in her hometown at the time).

In the years since, Jinny Byers had wanted to start a scholarship fund, crediting her long and successful career in nursing education to her sister who provided her the opportunity to achieve her nursing degree. Upon her death, 11 acres of her family land in North Carolina passed to her husband, Donald. After consulting with his daughter and granddaughter on the best way to honor Jinny Byers' memory, they decided to sell the land and use the proceeds to establish a nursing scholarship endowment in her name.

“What a wonderful way to honor Dr. Byers’ commitment to nursing education and also pay it forward to help future nursing students,” said College of Nursing Alumni Director Spencer Champagne. “It’s remarkable to see the long-lasting impact of that original $2,000 loan made all those years ago.”

The Virginia B. Byers, PhD, Nursing Scholarship Endowment will provide financial assistance to nursing students in perpetuity and honor the legacy of a beloved Upstate College of Nursing educator.

To give to the Virginia B. Byers, PhD, Nursing Scholarship Endowment, visit Nursing Alumni Association or call 315-464-4416.

Caption: Spencer Champagne, director of the College of Nursing Alumni Association, accepts the gift from Rev. Donald Byers in honor of Dr. Virginia Byers.