Efforts to provide exceptional education for future nurses have been greatly enhanced at The University of Texas at Austin by a gift from School of Nursing supporters Maureen and Robert Decherd.
The Decherds’ $1 million gift will be added to a gift of $500,000 given by daughter Audrey Decherd in 2019 to create the Maureen Healy Decherd ’73 Distinguished Professorship in Nursing, the first-ever distinguished professorship for the School of Nursing.
“Maureen and I, along with Audrey, are truly pleased to be able to help establish the first distinguished professorship at the UT Austin School of Nursing,” Robert Decherd said. “We continue to be greatly impressed by Dean Alexa Stuifbergen’s leadership of the school, most recently in steering a steady course through the COVID-19 crisis. Audrey and we have a strong conviction about the importance of nursing care across all dimensions of our society, as exemplified by the School of Nursing.”
The gift is based on the Decherds’ belief in the importance of the role nurses play in recovery from illness or injury, both from personal experience and from the enormously positive impact great nurses have had on family and friends in serious medical situations. Their daughter’s decision to pursue a career in nursing has been especially uplifting for them.
“There is always talk about ‘finest moments,’ yet it is hard to imagine that there has been a cohort more exemplary in recent history than the nurses, doctors and support personnel at U.S. hospitals in 2020,” Robert Decherd said. “Nursing education prepares thousands of nurses annually to help people be healthy in all sorts of conditions. This year, nurses have acquitted themselves magnificently, and the fight is hardly over.”
Caring for others is important to the entire Decherd family, and they are deeply committed to supporting education. In 1993, they created The Decherd Foundation to support secondary and higher education as well as to improve parks and urban centers in Dallas. Their previous gifts to the School of Nursing have supported facilities upgrades, including the recent space-planning process and the renovation of a large, theater-style classroom to facilitate technology advancements in education.
“As the primary providers of bedside care, it’s absolutely critical to provide world-class training by exceptional nursing faculty to best prepare and inspire our future nurses,” Audrey Decherd said. “Today’s nursing students will be uniquely trained for a range of global health problems — particularly in the areas of infection control and disaster preparedness — to a degree that previous generations of nurses simply were not. My hope is that this distinguished professorship will help support outstanding nursing faculty at the School of Nursing.”
Maureen and Audrey are UT Austin alumni: Maureen received an undergraduate degree in English in 1973, served on the Committee of 125, and is a long-time member of the College of Liberal Arts Advisory Council. Audrey received a master’s in nursing in 2012. After graduating, Audrey has worked as a staff nurse in the Neuroscience Department medical surgical and intensive care units at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas and is now a staff nurse in the Neonatal ICU at Baylor University Medical Center.
“Great teachers define exemplary educational institutions. Professors at this rank will help establish the school’s importance as the United States increasingly embraces the idea of making quality health care available to everyone,” Maureen Decherd said.
“This generous legacy-making gift from Audrey, Maureen and Robert Decherd will forever enrich nurse education and research in Central Texas and beyond by enhancing our recruitment and retention of senior research faculty,” said Dean Stuifbergen. “We are grateful to the Decherds for their belief in and strong support for Texas Nursing.”