Following nearly a year of renovations, as well as the purchasing and integration of the newest available technology, the nursing laboratories at Berkshire Community College were officially rededicated as the Barbara A. Nichols Nursing Arts Center during a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, February 19.
The ceremony, held in the two nursing laboratories in Melville Hall on BCC's main campus in Pittsfield, served to recognize and express profound appreciation for the many contributions that Nichols made to the college, both in life and in death.
A native of Boston, where she was raised by a foster mother, Nichols worked as a nurse and nursing instructor for more that 25 years before coming to BCC in 1967 as the second faculty member of the college's new nursing program. When she retired in 1984, Nichols "left a legacy of caring and excellence in nursing education that will live on in all who had the privilege of knowing her."
Following her death in October 2007, BCC was notified that Nichols had left her entire estate of at least $500,000 to the college for the purpose of "maintaining the integrity of the nursing program and establishing scholarships for future nurses." That amount now stands at more than $650,000 and remains the largest gift by an individual donor in the history of the college.
According to BCC President Paul Raverta, who spoke at the ceremony and cut the ribbon, about $400,000 (including college funds) has been spent so far on upgrades, renovations, and purchases of new technology. "BCC nursing students will be educated using the latest simulation equipment and best technology available," said Raverta. With the addition of recent purchases, the college's nursing program now has eight authentic "hospital" stations where students interact with life-like mannequin "patients" controlled by an instructor at a remote monitoring desk.
Turning his attention to the second purpose of this "extremely generous gift," Raverta stated that the donation from Nichols will ensure that "scholarships for students in need will be available to generations of qualified BCC nursing students, who might otherwise have been forced to leave the program due to financial considerations." Following the president's comments, Anna Foss, assistant dean of nursing and allied health, presented the second Barbara A. Nichols Scholarship for $3000 to this year's recipient, Kevin O'Connell. The first scholarship, also for $3000, was presented to Emily O'Rouke last year when the bequest was originally announced.
Raverta also noted and expressed sincere appreciation for the other individuals and organizations who have helped to make the Barbara A. Nichols Nursing Arts Center a reality, either directly or indirectly. In addition to the BCC faculty and staff who worked to prepare the new center, these individuals and organizations include the BCC Foundation which manages donations and scholarships, the TD Bank Foundation which provided the funding for the first simulation purchase, Congressman John Olver who obtained additional simulation funding in the amount of $170,000 a year for two years; and Berkshire Health Systems which has consistently supported and worked with BCC to provide the "best teaching environment to better prepare our students to care for the citizens of Berkshire County."
To see additional pictures from the ribbon cutting ceremony, click on students, attendees, and Kevin & family.