Judy Wicinski Memorial Scholarship supports next generation of nurses
When Bruce Wicinski needed financial assistance to attend college, his wife, Judy, dropped out of college and worked to support her husband while he pursued an accounting degree. Now, Bruce wishes to honor his late wife with the Judy Wicinski Memorial Scholarship for Tennessee Tech students.
“When I think of education, I think of those in need and am reminded that I was one of those students when I was in college,” Bruce said. “My wife saw the need for me to continue on in college, and she went to work to help me do that.”
Judy majored in math at Hunter College in New York City at the time, and Bruce says she was an excellent mathematician.
“In 1967, we didn’t have computers, so she did all of the mathematical calculations with a number two pencil and a piece of paper,” he said. “That’s how bright she was. I was flabbergasted by her intelligence.”
Thanks to Judy, Bruce enjoyed a successful career as an accountant. Judy never finished her college degree, and Bruce says she happily left the workforce for the most important job of all: mom. The couple have two sons – Thomas and Steven.
“She couldn’t wait to be a mom,” Bruce said. “She was a stay-at-home mom and a darn good one. Our sons would tell you that she was tough but loving.”
While Bruce and Judy don’t have any ties to Tech – Bruce received his accounting degree from City College of New York – Bruce decided to establish the scholarship at Tech because of the university’s proximity to their home in Fairfield Glade, Tenn. The Wicinskis retired to Fairfield Glade in 2000 after living in several states including New York, Pennsylvania and Georgia. But Bruce says Tennessee is home now, and he wants to help students here.
Bruce says what initially inspired him to help students in the area started soon after the couple moved to Fairfield Glade. Their church participated in Crab Orchard Elementary School’s Christmas party, and Bruce and Judy were immediately concerned about the children there. Many were poorly dressed, and when asked what they wanted for Christmas, they didn’t ask for toys; instead, they asked for clothes and food.
“I remember my wife saying, ‘What is happening in this area?’” Bruce recalled. “So, we made it a mission to help with their clothing drive every year. But Judy wanted to do more.”
Bruce and Judy enjoyed 12 years of retirement in Fairfield Glade before Judy was diagnosed with dementia. Bruce admits that life changed drastically for both of them after that but says a bright spot during a difficult time was Cumberland House, operated by Hospice of Cumberland County. Bruce was impressed with the amazing care his wife received there but was surprised that there weren’t any young nurses. He learned that hospice facilities have a hard time attracting new nurses, and he wanted to find a way to change that. Bruce decided that a scholarship for students with financial need that gives preference to nursing majors would be one way to help.
Bruce researched universities in the area that offer four-year nursing degrees and found Tennessee Tech. Through his research, he discovered that nursing is one of Tech’s most rigorous academic programs. And he was surprised to learn that each year, some of Tech’s nursing students have to drop out of college to get jobs to support their families.
“To learn that students who are already enrolled in college are having to drop out to help at home shattered me,” Bruce said. “College is important, so I didn’t like hearing that some students are having to take a step backwards. If the financial part is the issue, let me help with that, and let the folks at Tennessee Tech decide who needs the scholarship the most.”
Kim Hanna, dean of Tennessee Tech’s Whitson-Hester School of Nursing, says scholarships are crucial in attracting young new nurses into multiple fields of nursing, including hospice.
“Mrs. Wicinski’s legacy lives on through a scholarship that will educate nurses who will in turn care for hundreds – perhaps thousands – of patients and families throughout the Upper Cumberland region and beyond,” Hanna said.
Judy passed away in 2022 at the age of 76, but Bruce says he hopes the Judy Wicinski Memorial Scholarship will honor her legacy and give future students the same support that he received from his wife.
“Judy was a great wife and a wonderful person and a great mother,” Bruce said. “That’s just exactly who she was.”