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$1M gift to VCU to fund scholarships to support nurse practitioner students

vcuThe VCU School of Nursing has received a $1 million gift from the estate of Rebecca Bowen, an avid supporter of health care education and wife of Medical College of Virginia (now VCU) alumnus Robert Richardson Bowen, M.D.

Starting in the 2020-21 academic year, the Dr. Robert Richardson Bowen and Rebecca Peebles Bowen Endowed Scholarship will support nurse practitioner students enrolled in the master’s program or Doctor of Nursing Practice program. The scholarships will fund half of the tuition and fees for full- or part-time students. Recipients must be Virginia residents and demonstrate academic merit and financial need.

Rebecca Bowen saw supporting the nursing profession as a way to advance the careers of women, and a large number of men, in health care, said Bowen’s niece Mary Dunn Conover.

“In some ways, she was ahead of her time. She worked to help her husband through medical school and she saw the benefit of a woman being independent,” Conover said. “As she went through life by his side, she started realizing there were many capable women in the medical field and became increasingly impressed by nurse practitioners. So my aunt and uncle talked a lot about helping the nursing profession to advance and always wanted to help someone have a hand up.”

Rebecca Bowen, who died last year at 91, studied merchandising at Richmond Professional Institute, which later merged with Medical College of Virginia to become VCU. While her husband attended the Medical College of Virginia, she worked as an assistant buyer of children’s apparel for the Miller & Rhoads department store. When the couple moved to Lynchburg, Virginia, she opened a boutique antique shop.

Robert Bowen, who died in 2013, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II on a destroyer in the Atlantic and Pacific. He was a practicing orthopedic surgeon in Lynchburg for 40 years, mentoring numerous physicians and nurses. Bowen was a member of the Lynchburg Academy of Medicine, the Medical Society of Virginia and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

During their lifetimes, the Bowens made numerous contributions to health care and health care education. In the early ’90s, they funded a new surgical suite and adjacent waiting room at Lynchburg General Hospital. In the late ’90s, they established the Dr. Robert R. Bowen Foundation, which provided ongoing nonprofit support until its transfer to the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation in 2016. Over its lifespan, the Bowen Foundation board allocated annual grants to further both health care delivery and nursing education.

Jean Giddens, Ph.D., dean of the VCU School of Nursing, praised the Bowens’ contribution to nursing education at VCU.

“We are truly grateful for the Bowen family’s investment in our students,” Giddens said. “The scholarships will enhance our ability to prepare more nurse practitioners with the advanced education needed to improve patient safety and the delivery of health care.”