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Support for Nursing Students Improves Tomorrow's World

Gerald Woldt supports UW-Eau Claire students pursuing a career in nursing through the scholarship he created.

Gerald "Jay" Woldt is a retired career nurse, serving first as a certified nurse anesthetist in the Army Nurse Corps for 21 years and then as a civilian for another 21 years. He did not attend the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, but he grew up in nearby Chippewa Falls, Wis. According to Woldt, he has long been impressed by the quality of UW-Eau Claire's nursing program.

"Nursing is a wonderful career, especially for families with children because it's so flexible," said Woldt. "There wasn't a day that I didn't look forward to going to work. I thoroughly enjoyed my profession. In anesthesia you had the wonderful opportunity to administer anesthesia to the very young preemie all the way to the elderly, so each day was a totally different challenge and opportunity to apply many techniques.

A few years ago, Woldt established a scholarship with the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. He's always had a passion for encouraging others in the field and was looking for a way to continue that effort. Through a planned estate gift, Woldt has shown his commitment to supporting nursing students in a powerful and meaningful way.

The Gerald D. Woldt Nursing Scholarship, a $4,000 award, is presented to one undergraduate and one graduate nursing student annually, and gives preference to males who enroll in the nursing program.

"Nursing is a profession that is under-represented by the male population," said Woldt. "It has been a very rewarding career for me and I would like to see more males enter the nursing field. Today I am seeing more males in nursing when I take my senior friends to the hospital and to appointments.

In the Army, Woldt estimates that male nurses represented about 40 percent of all nurses. The latest Census Bureau reports that in the civilian sector, the proportion of male nurses has more than tripled since 1970, from 2.7 percent to 9.6 percent.

Woldt didn't start out looking for a career in health care. In 1962, he worked nights as an orderly at the University of Wisconsin in Madison as a way to earn some extra money while he took college courses in accounting. That's when staff members on a neurosurgery unit took notice of his affinity for patient care and encouraged him to go to nursing school.

"The resident neurosurgeon, Dr. Meyers, physically took me to a school in Wausau to recommend me to the administration," said Woldt, who was one of five male students in the program and one of the two who eventually graduated. "He also took me to the operating room two nights to observe him doing surgery and sat me next to the anesthesiologist. After that, I knew I was attending nursing school and heading right on to anesthesia."

In much the same way, Woldt is now helping to identify students with a similar heart and high potential and, with scholarship monies, getting them on their way to fulfilling careers in health care.

Woldt obtained a bachelor of science degree in nursing, a master's degree in nursing administration and a minor in education. He became a CRNA while serving in the U.S. Army, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1987.

There are many ways to make a gift in support of UW-Eau Claire. Please contact John DeLestry at 715-836-3819 or to learn more.

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