Chancellor Karla Hughes of the University of Arkansas at Monticello announced that UAM has received an estate gift worth an estimated $1.5 million. Hughes made the announcement May 9 at the School of Nursing Graduate Recognition Ceremony, according to a news release.


It is the second-largest single gift in the university’s history. The donor, Raylene Steelman, left UAM the vast majority of her estate with the specific intent of providing nursing scholarships.


Steelman died April 12 in Monticello at age 96. She wanted to remain anonymous until her death. A Warren High School graduate, Steelman worked at the university as a librarian for 37 years. Her interest in providing nursing scholarships was sparked by the quality of care she received from UAM nurse graduates late in life, according to the release.


“You will absolutely change lives every day,” Hughes said at the ceremony. “Mrs. Steelman learned, over and over, that her own capable nurses had studied at UAM,” Hughes said. “One nurse, one patient encounter, can have a profound impact on the entire region.”


Brandy Haley, dean of the UAM school of nursing, explained that the gift would provide around $70,000 per year in perpetuity for nursing students.


“This gift will enhance UAM’s reputation as the premier educator in the health sciences,” Haley said. “Growing interest in our program means it will get even more competitive, and that adds value to the degrees you have earned.”


At the Monticello campus, UAM offers Associate of Applied Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing, in addition to LPN-to-RN, LPN-to-BSN and RN-to-BSN tracks. CNA and LPN programs are also offered at UAM Colleges of Technology in Crossett and McGehee.


Graduating nursing majors received their nursing pins at the recognition event May 9 and took the Florence Nightingale Pledge. Students received their degrees from the university May 10 at commencement, which was held in the Herman C. Steelman Fieldhouse, named for Steelman’s late husband, formerly a UAM biology professor.


The largest private gift to the university, from the Merle and Deloris Peterson estate, was announced last fall and exceeded $6 million, according to the release.


Hughes noted that student success can be achieved with the help of philanthropy, and likewise, philanthropy can be inspired by successful students.


“When we receive planned gifts like these, it’s wonderful to think of the legacy these donors will have in shaping future students’ lives,” Hughes said. “It’s very special this time that UAM graduates had such an impact on the donor.”