William Strawbridge and his wife, Margaret Wallhagen, empathize with the concept of coming from limited means, and that understanding fuels their excitement to give back and contribute to making education more accessible.
“Berea’s commitment to social justice is really important to us,” Wallhagen said. “The opportunity of affordable education isn’t available to a lot of people, and if you want to achieve equity, you have a lot more to do than just equal access.”
In 2021, they created the Appalachian Community Service and Learning Projects Fund. The fund provides scholarships for Berea College nursing students who wish to engage in community-service projects or learning opportunities in Appalachia to enhance essential skills, knowledge and attitudes of the profession.
“We encourage our students to create projects and things that open their way of thinking, and the Strawbridge scholarship is perfect for that,” said Dr. Monica Kennison, chair of Berea’s Nursing department.
Strawbridge grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and had friends and family scattered throughout Appalachia. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and emerged able to use the GI Bill, which would pay for any U.S. accredited graduate school. He chose the University of Washington, where he met Wallhagen.
Strawbridge is now retired from his position as an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, where Wallhagen works as a professor in the department of physiological nursing in the gerontology specialty program.
“We hope this fund will assist nursing students in developing community outreach that will allow them to design programs to meet demonstrated needs,” Strawbridge said.