Scholarships Help Couple Say Thanks to School of Nursing

Pat and Norman Bender got so much satisfaction from the first scholarship fund they established at UConn, they decided to set up a second one.

Both scholarships support students in the School of Nursing, from which Pat graduated in 1969.

The first was established in 2004 in honor of Pat’s father, Robert A. Matheson, a 1941 graduate of UConn. “My father was extremely supportive of higher education and devoted to UConn his entire life,” says Pat. They established the scholarship shortly before Matheson died. “We were able to alert friends and family members that they could make donations to his scholarship fund in his memory. It was comforting for them and for us,” says Pat.

“I tell my friends that if they are thinking about establishing a scholarship to honor a friend or family member, they shouldn’t wait. When the sad time comes, and it is going to come for all of us, the scholarship will be in place to receive donations from those who want to honor the person’s memory. My father’s fund still gets donations, to this day.”

The Benders established the second scholarship earlier this year and named it to honor Harold and Lillian Lester. Harold was Pat’s uncle and lived upstairs from Pat’s maternal grandmother. “I spent a lot of time with Lil and Harold. Lil was a nurse and she helped me realize that nursing was a valued profession,” says Pat who lived with her grandmother while attending college.

“Lil was very involved in all aspects of nursing,” says Pat. “She was really ahead of her time, embracing the holistic approach of nursing that we see today.”

This year the Robert A. Matheson and the Harold and Lillian Lester scholarships were awarded to Emily B. Bak, Class of 2015, who thanked the Benders in a letter. “Your financial support will allow me to continue my diligent efforts at the University of Connecticut,” said Emily, who is president of the Nursing Class of 2015, active in mission trips to Haiti, and a volunteer at the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven. “My parents and I work hard to pay for my education, but any financial support we receive helps immensely. I speak for both myself and my family members when I say that this gift is greatly appreciated.”

Pat and Norman have also pledged $50,000 for an endowment fund to provide program support for the School of Nursing.

“Nursing has been very good to me, and I’m fortunate I can give back to UConn and to the profession,” says Pat. “It has been my privilege to practice nursing in a variety of settings from hospital-based bedside to community outreach, to staff development and private practice. My education at the University of Connecticut was invaluable in providing me with a framework to provide quality care. And, I am proud to say, the school continues to educate professionals who excel.”

“I try to help people understand how worthwhile it is to give to UConn. I think it’s important to support an organization doing work that one believes in and is unable to accomplish themselves,” says Pat. “The School of Nursing gave us skills, values, and leadership abilities that were transferable to many aspects of our lives. And the School continues that work today, educating good nurses and good people.”

By: Kristina Goodnough, UConn Foundation