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School of Nursing benefactor Travis left lasting legacy

Jul. 12, 2012, 11:01 AM

Nancy Dillard Travis, an alumna and longtime friend and supporter of Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, died on June 30. She was 88.

Nancy Dillard Travis

Mrs. Travis was born in Taylors, S.C., in 1924 and recognized at an early age how health and wellness were crucial to a good quality of life. Though she wanted to pursue nursing, her father insisted that she enroll in Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. After her father’s death, Mrs. Travis decided to attend one of only 10 baccalaureate nursing programs in the country. She became a member of the first class of the U.S. Army Cadet Nursing Corps at Vanderbilt, graduating in 1947.

Mrs. Travis’ professional interests were in public health nursing. She served as executive director of the Florence Crittenden Home, became director of Nurses Education at Baptist Hospital, and was the occupational health nurse at the Methodist Publishing House. She married Hilliard Travis, whom she referred to as “Travis,” founder of Travis Electric Co., in 1956. He died in 1996.

Mrs. Travis retired from professional nursing in 1963 and became a member of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Auxiliary.

She was a great supporter of VUSN, endowing the dean’s chair currently held by Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., CNM, and providing student scholarships to more than 380 VUSN students. During VUSN’s Centennial in 2008, she was recognized as one of the School’s Top 100 Leaders for her altruistic giving.

“I met Nancy and Hilliard soon after starting my tenure at the nursing school 28 years ago, and through the years, our relationship grew,” Conway-Welch said. “They made a gift to endow the Nancy and Hilliard Travis Chair in Nursing with the intent it be held by the dean, and their goal was to bring recognition and resources to the school. Friends like Nancy and Hilliard have had such an impact on the school, and me personally. Their dedication is awe-inspiring.”

During her volunteer work at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, now known as the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, she invented “Sweetpea,” a clown persona that she dressed up as for more than 10 years, bringing joy and comfort to the children staying at the hospital.

“Nancy once told me ‘Vanderbilt has been wonderful to Travis and me. I can live anywhere. I can find a new church and a new home, but I could never find another medical center and a school of nursing like this one,’” said Conway-Welch.

Mrs. Travis is survived by granddaughter, Mayeti Gametchu of Boston, Mass, several nieces and nephews and extended family.

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