As a sophomore nursing student, Margaret “Peggy” Sczesny ’69 (NUR), ’79 MS was grateful to earn a stethoscope, a critical tool and emblem of her professional life.
So it is perhaps not surprising that stethoscopes are part of an extraordinary bequest that Sczesny left to the UConn School of Nursing. Her friend and dorm mate, Carol Ann Conboy ’69 ED, a retired justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, will speak at a special ceremony in January about Sczesny and her desire to help future generations of nursing students.
“Because we both came from financially challenged families, I know that the purchase of Peggy’s first stethoscope came at a real sacrifice,” Conboy says. “She cherished it almost as much as her nursing pin.”
In her will, Sczesny established an endowed fund to provide a stethoscope to every nursing student as they prepare for clinicals. The current sophomore class will get theirs at the January 18 ceremony.
“This gift to each nursing student comes with Peggy’s personal wish for inspiration and success,” Conboy says.
This is not the first time that alumni have stepped up to help buy stethoscopes. In recent years, alumni and faculty have chipped in to help pay for them, particularly the annual University-wide 36-hour giving initiative called UConn Gives. In fact, last year a donor offered a challenge match to increase giving to the Nursing Stethoscope Fund. However, that entire fund could cover only one class. The new endowed fund created from the Sczesny gift takes this a step further by creating a permanent Traditions Fund to cover the cost of the stethoscopes as well as nursing pins for all students.
“Because of the extraordinary cost of going to college for many of these students, I know that having the ability to receive a stethoscope for free is a huge benefit,” says Mimi Snyder, director of undergraduate nursing programs at UConn.
For nursing students, a stethoscope is one of the first signature symbols of becoming a nurse, Snyder says. Students need their stethoscopes for the spring semester of their sophomore year when they learn how to take vital signs, measure blood pressure, and listen to heart and lung sounds.
“It’s a key tool that’s necessary to do a full, head-to-toe assessment on a client. It’s used by nurses throughout their day from the beginning of the shift to the end,” Synder says.
Nursing student Jillian Rogers, a junior, remembers the day she got her stethoscope last year. She said she and her classmates felt grateful for donors who understand the impact and importance of this symbolic tool.
“The fact that donors provided this gift to nursing students is both touching and encouraging because getting a stethoscope is the first step towards feeling prepared for new endeavors in the clinical setting,” she says.
The new Traditions Fund is part the more than $1.5 million bequest Sczesny made to the School of Nursing. Her bequest also endows a scholarship for students interested in pursuing pediatric nursing, which was Sczesny’s specialty.
Sczesny, a Connecticut native, earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing at UConn. She began her career as a staff nurse and clinical director at Yale-New Haven Hospital. She was recruited in 1984 to Virginia Commonwealth University Health, where she served as director of pediatric nursing. Later in her career, she channeled her experience into recruiting nurses to practice in acute care at the Southside Regional Medical Center in Petersburg, Virginia before retiring in 2011.