Philanthropists Darren and Terry Jackson are donating $31 million to support Marquette University
's College of Nursing students and programs, president Michael Lovell announced Thursday.
The gift will support up to 80 scholarships annually for Marquette nursing students from underrepresented backgrounds with the goal of advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the nursing field, the university said.
The long-term vision is to prepare 5,000 nurses over the next decade and beyond through Marquette’s College of Nursing
, including 1,000 diverse nurses; grow Ph.D.-prepared faculty; and bolster the college in areas like telehealth education, the university said.
"This significant gift will dramatically impact Marquette University’s future,” Lovell said during a virtual presidential address Thursday afternoon.
Darren Jackson, the former chief executive officer of Advance Auto Parts from 2008 until his retirement in 2016, is a 1986 graduate of Marquette's College of Business Administration and chaired the university's board of trustees from 2009-'12. Terry Jackson graduated from the College of Nursing in 1987.
"We believe in the mission of Marquette," Darren Jackson said. "That mission of Marquette has touched all of us. That is what we are investing in. We are investing in leadership.”
“Our country has been through a real challenge over the past year,” Terry Jackson said. “Not only with the COVID crisis, but in the economic crisis and in the cries for social justice. Our goal is to help Marquette answer the call.”
The university said the gift will also provide enhanced wrap-around academic advising support and form a new teaching academy that will provide preparation for faculty to achieve national certifications in nursing education. Marquette said the academy will address faculty shortages at a time when it’s projected that a third of the current nursing faculty workforce in baccalaureate and graduate programs will retire by 2025.
The gift also launches a “strategic initiatives” fund that will invest in emerging health care innovation, the university said.
Marquette is preparing to publicly launch its comprehensive fundraising campaign in April.
Marquette currently enrolls 1,287 nursing students, 616 of whom are undergraduate students. The scholarships will be designated for underrepresented students who are accepted into the nursing college beginning in fall 2021, with additional scholarships added each year.
“This generous gift comes at a really critical time as we persist through the pandemic and work to address racial injustices so that we can decrease health disparities,” said Dr. Janet Krejci, dean of the College of Nursing. “We see significant opportunity to increase the enrollment, retention and graduation rates for our underrepresented students and deepen all of our students’ understanding and competencies of how to support and engage patients from a range of different backgrounds. Darren and Terry have not only given of their treasure, they’ve given of their time working beside us to map out this vision.”
The gift also comes as the university faces major financial headwinds, including declining enrollment and lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the fall, Lovell said the university is anticipating a $45 million budget shortfall beginning in 2022.
After implementing cost-cutting measures to address short-term challenges, the university eliminated 39 staff positions
in January to address long-term shortfalls.