Nursing students to receive new Held-Merrill scholarship

Tara Baucom


The W is offering a scholarship in honor of Sisters Margaret Held and Paula Merrill to graduate nursing students.

The Held-Merrill Fund is an endowed scholarship that will be offered to graduate and doctoral students who embody the character of the two sisters, who were graduates of the nursing program. 

The recipient of the scholarship is required to have worked in an underserved area or perform community service acts benefiting the health of underprivileged areas.

“The scholarship has been established, and it will be an endowed scholarship which means that we will never touch the funds that are given for the scholarship,” said Andrea Stevens, executive director of development and alumni. “It’s a minimum amount of $15,000 to establish a scholarship and we’re probably about a fourth of the way through there, getting to $15,000.” 

Stevens hopes the scholarship will be available by the 2018-2019 school year. It will be credited to the recipient's account and go toward tuition or other needs.

The recipient will be picked by a committee of graduate faculty. The main goal is for the recipient to be someone who will carry on the spirit of Held and Merrill.

“Ideally, the recipient would be someone who practiced and helped or even volunteered in a free clinic or helped establish a free clinic,” said Dr. Johnnie Sue Wijewardane, associate professor and graduate nursing department chair at The W. “There are lots of people who could embody the spirit of these two ladies.”

The scholarship is expected to go on into the future and carry Held and Merrill’s spirit throughout the years. It will share the story of how these two women spread kindness and love by following their calling as nurses.

“There’s such a hole in that area that’s left because who's going to provide the health care to that population, so we’re looking for somebody that embodies that and that will be a memory to what these two sisters did with their lives,” said Dr. Sheila Adams, dean of the College of Nursing and Speech-Language Pathology. 

Held and Merrill were killed last month in their home in Durant, Miss. They helped provide health care through a clinic in Holmes County, which is one of the poorest areas in the country.