The cash gift will fund faculty positions, teaching laboratories and student scholarships in the nursing school, which has been renamed the Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing in honor of Lewis’ mother, a retired nurse.
“The shortage of nurses and the lack of training opportunities is a national issue, and one we need to address because nurses play such a beneficial role in our society,” said Ken Lewis, who graduated from Georgia State’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business in 1969.
Lewis’s mother Byrdine exemplifies the dedication of nurses to the field and their patients, he added. Divorced and raising two children on her own, Byrdine Lewis often worked double shifts to support her family. “I have always been impressed by her commitment to her family and the profession, and this gift is a wonderful way to pay tribute to that,” Ken Lewis said.
Part of the $2.5 million gift will fund the Byrdine F. Lewis Endowment, which will provide money for faculty enrichment, programs, research and student scholarships. The gift also will help support Georgia State’s proposed new $75 million science-teaching laboratory building.
“I never thought of doing anything else but be a nurse – it’s one of the most rewarding jobs there is,” said Byrdine Lewis. “I don’t think I’m worthy, but (the naming) is a wonderful thing.”
A native of Meridian, Miss., Byrdine Lewis worked as a nurse for 46 years, retiring in 1991. She primarily cared for post-operative patients in Mississippi, California and Georgia, including at Medical Center Hospital of Columbus and Perry Memorial Hospital in Perry.
“This generous gift will enhance the reputation of the School of Nursing and allow us to recruit nationally-known faculty and continue to attract the highest quality students,” said Susan Kelley, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, which houses the Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing. “We are thrilled to have the school named after a professional registered nurse who dedicated her life to the field.”
The Byrdine F. Lewis School of Nursing offers seven degree and certification programs, including the state’s first accelerated baccalaureate nursing program, as well as clinical experiences in metro Atlanta hospitals, clinics and community-based health care programs. More than 400 students are enrolled in the school.