Former Cookeville mayor Davises contribute to TTU nursing fundraiserPolitics isn’t the only thing Cookeville couple and former mayors Bobby and Jean Davis have in common. They’re both long-time supporters of Tennessee Tech University’s School of Nursing as well.
For their contribution to a recent campaign to raise $21 million for the construction of a new facility, the Davis legacy will be memorialized in the naming of the new building’s Student Health Services waiting room.
“Both as mayors and healthcare professionals, Bobby and Jean Davis have shown continued interest in the wellbeing of our community, and their support of this project will contribute directly to the health of the entire Upper Cumberland region by helping TTU increase its number of nursing graduates,” said Tom Hamilton, vice president of University Advancement.
Bobby, who retired from a 40-year career as a pharmacist, and Jean, a retired nurse who once worked as nursing supervisor at the Putnam County Health Department and as director of TTU’s Student Health Services, say their support of TTU’s School of Nursing “just comes naturally.”
Bobby was a charter member and the first president of the School of Nursing Foundation, now called the SON Development Council, and Jean was a charter member and early president of the Friends of the School of Nursing Auxiliary, which no longer exists today but which helped the program in its early years increase its scholarship funding significantly.
For those and other factors, the couple earned the university’s 1998 Outstanding Service Award.
In addition, both of them and their two children counted on TTU for portions of their education. Bobby received pre-pharmacy training at the university before attending pharmacy school at the University of Tennessee in Memphis, and the couple’s daughter followed in her father’s footsteps.
Jean, a UT Memphis nursing graduate, earned her master’s degree in psychology and educational counseling from TTU, and their son earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.
“When I was working toward earning my bachelor’s degree, a nursing school for Tennessee Tech had probably never even been imagined, but we’ve supported the program since plans for it were first being formulated,” Jean said.
“We knew it would benefit our entire region by helping bachelor’s-level nursing students get a proper education without having to go so far from their homes, and that’s why it’s so important to have the best facility available to provide that education,” she continued.
It was the couple’s political experiences, however, that gave them a broader understanding of how first TTU and then its nursing program are interconnected with all other segments of the community infrastructure.
Bobby served as mayor from 1967 to 1973, prior to the creation of the School of Nursing in 1980. Jean served as mayor from 1994 to 1998.
“It becomes evident how all areas of the community impact each other, and during Jean’s term of office, we really saw how vital TTU’s School of Nursing is to enhancing the quality of healthcare throughout not just Cookeville, but the entire Upper Cumberland region,” Bobby said.
Jean agreed, saying, “We saw how critical it is to the success of our community healthcare system because qualified nurses enable our hospitals and our physicians to further enhance their services.”
Both say that possibly their greatest service to the university has been their opportunity to inform others — some in greater positions of power — about the institution’s needs and goals.
“We’ve been fortunate that our professional and political experiences have given us so many wonderful opportunities to cultivate others’ interest in the university’s needs and goals,” Bobby said.
“It takes everyone working together — contributing their time, talent, skill, resources or whatever they have to offer — to make something like this a success, and we’re just one tiny cog in the big wheel of people who’ve contributed to this fundraising effort,” Jean said.
In addition to contributions from private donors like the Davis family, state and federal grants — including an allocation of $15.4 million in the Tennessee Legislature’s $26 billion state budget approved in June — have helped the university secure adequate funding for the construction of the new building.
It will be the first constructed specifically to house the 25-year-old academic program.
The university could begin accepting bids from potential contractors as soon as early next year, ground could be broken as early as next April, and the project could possibly be completed in as little as 18 months following the groundbreaking.