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Three Decades of Impact

by May. 23, 2019, 9:10 AM

Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans
Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans

On clinic day every week, first-year nursing student Brooke Hazen’s 12-hour shift starts at 6:30 a.m.

“We’re taking vital signs, helping patients shower and walk, administering shots and IVs, and interpreting lab results,” she says. Hazen is in Vanderbilt School of Nursing’s prespecialty program, which provides a two-year path to a master’s degree for students with no background in nursing.

One reason Hazen can dive into her studies headfirst is due to her scholarship from the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation, which has provided more than $4.5 million in support to hundreds of Vanderbilt nursing students since 1971.

“I was so excited when I was accepted to the School of Nursing, but wasn’t sure how I was going to handle paying for the program,” Hazen says. “The day I got the letter about the scholarship, I just cried.”

Like many of her fellow students, Hazen’s path to a nursing career wasn’t direct. She grew up in rural Pelham, Tennessee, in a home filled with music. She studied music and vocal performance as an undergraduate and was accepted to the prestigious Peabody Institute conservatory at Johns Hopkins.

Then her father’s sudden passing put her at a crossroads.

“I still sing all the time, as much as I can, but music is not the career path for me to pursue,” she says.

The foundation’s senior program officer, Carrie Davis Conway, isn’t surprised by Hazen’s path to nursing. “So many of the foundation’s scholarship recipients are pursuing second careers,” she says.

The foundation was created to honor philanthropist and businesswoman Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans (1872–1953), the wife of Joseph B. Whitehead, one of the original bottlers of Coca-Cola. Widowed in 1906 at the age of 34, Whitehead took over her husband’s bottling business and real estate interests, guiding both to great success. She became one of the first female directors of any major American corporation when she was appointed to the board of the Coca-Cola Co. in 1934.

After earning her M.S.N., Hazen plans to enroll in Vanderbilt’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program, with a goal of teaching and influencing public policy.

“Just one person can make a huge change,” Hazen says. “The scholarship gives me the chance to be that person.”