The McCullen Family of Natchitoches has created an endowed scholarship through the Northwestern State University Foundation that will benefit upper level nursing students. Wayne and Sandra McCullen created the scholarship to mark the 50th anniversary of their graduation dates from Northwestern in 1969 and 1970 and their 50th wedding anniversary. The couple hopes the scholarship will help “someone in clinicals who is very serious about being a nurse,” they said.
The McCullens, along with their children and their spouses David and Beth McCullen of Oxford, Mississippi; Brandon and McCall McCullen of Benton and Rob and Michelle McCullen Posey of Benton, joined faculty and administrators from Northwestern State University’s College of Nursing to discuss needs the scholarship will fill and the family’s history with Northwestern State. In Mr. and Mrs. McCullen’s immediate family, four out of five are NSU graduates and, including their children’s spouses, seven out of eight are NSU graduates.
“This is very dear to me,” Wayne McCullen said. “I give a lot of credit to NSU for my success.”
Mr. McCullen was a first-generation college student from Springhill who credited his parents’ work ethic in forming his character. He became interested in nursing as a teenager after an emergency appendectomy in which he was acquainted with the CNA (Certified Nurse Anesthetist) who put him to sleep for the procedure. He later asked his guidance counselor where he should pursue a nursing degree and was pointed to NSU. After earning his bachelor’s degree in nursing, he pursued a degree in anesthesia at the University of South Alabama and served as the director of anesthesia at Natchitoches Regional Medical Center from 1974-2000.
Mr. McCullen was a three-term mayor of Natchitoches, leading the city from 2000-2012. Prior to that, he served on the Natchitoches City Council from 1980–2000. Northwestern State honored him with an Nth Degree for meritorious service and in 2012 he was inducted into the Long Purple Line, NSU’s Alumni Hall of Distinction.
Mrs. McCullen graduated from Baton Rouge High School and completed her nursing degree at NSU in 1970. As an RN, she held several positions in nursing care and administration at Natchitoches Parish Hospital, including serving as assistant director of nursing, taking time off when each of their children was born. She was active in the community while raising a family and supporting her husband’s political life. The McCullens have been members of First Baptist Church for over 50 years and will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary Aug. 9.
Mr. and Mrs. McCullen both credited NSU for preparing them for successful careers and, with the support of their children, felt a strong desire to give back.
“We are delighted we can contribute and make it possible for a person with a hardship to finish their degree in nursing,” Mr. McCullen said. “I could not have gone to school without scholarships and student loans.”
Beginning this fall, the $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to a nursing major in clinicals in Shreveport, Alexandria or Natchitoches who demonstrate a financial need.
“The culture we have right now at NSU is keeping our students at the forefront,” said NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio, adding that 80 percent of NSU students receive some form of financial aid. “We know the median income for families in northwest Louisiana has put a burden on a lot of our students. Gifts like this make or break whether a student can continue to go to school. I’m so grateful the McCullens are embracing this as a family.”
Maggio said that when he became president of Northwestern, Mr. and Mrs. McCullen were role models for him and his wife Jennifer, who looked up to the McCullens as a husband and wife team in leadership roles.
Dr. Dana Clawson, dean of NSU’s College of Nursing and School of Allied Health said scholarships for students are the college’s great need.
“We had a couple of students who passed the spring semester, but we noticed they weren’t re-enrolled. They are one semester from graduating but they said, ‘We just can’t afford to go.’ We were able to find scholarship money and if we hadn’t been able to, I think we would have passed the hat. Many of our students are first generation students and those taking summer classes don’t receive TOPS.”
NSU’s nursing program has grown by 30 percent in the last two years. There are about 2,500 nursing students and over 700 in clinicals. Graduates have 100 percent job placement and 100 percent pass rate on the NCLEX, the National Council Licensure Examination required to become an entry-level nurse.
In addition to improving labs and technology and hiring faculty to accommodate growth, administrators have developed several programs to meet needs in the community, including a paramedic/military medic to RN program that will begin this fall and a Bachelor of Science to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program for students who completed a degree in biology and would like to become nurses. The School’s first class of psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners graduated this past May.
Clinicals students are now able to take classes at sites in Natchitoches and Alexandria so that students with band, athletic or ROTC scholarships can more easily complete upper level courses. The School also offers a full summer session so students can finish a year early. Administrators said scholarship awards also help offset the cost of board fees, exam fees and other costs stacked on top of tuition.
“We have been so incredibly blessed,” Mrs. McCullen said. “We are so thankful to be able to help someone or several people.”