Nursing an affection for McMaster
Clara Elman ’46 and Jean Rankin ’83 were pioneers in the nursing profession. Both blazed a trail for those who followed. Both devoted their lives to nursing education. And both made a final gesture to help others, leaving generous gifts in their wills to support nursing students at McMaster.
The first in her family to attend university, Clara Elman (née Graham) was one of McMaster’s first three nursing graduates in 1946. After a stint at the Hamilton General Hospital, she was hired as the fifth faculty member in McMaster’s newly established School of Nursing.
In 1954, she travelled to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where she served as a surgical nursing instructor for six years. She also travelled on her own to Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and India. While overseas, she met a Canadian journalist named Russell Elman. They were married in 1960.
Over the years, the Elmans established several endowments at the School of Nursing to fund scholarships and travel awards, as well as at the Hamilton Community Foundation to support literacy. Russell died in 2009 and when Clara passed away in December 2013, her will included a sizeable bequest to augment the Clara I. Elman Scholarship Fund in support of nursing students at McMaster.
“Clara Elman’s impact on the School of Nursing has been wonderfully multi-faceted, like a diamond,” said John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences. “She contributed first as a student, then as a faculty member, and now she will have everlasting influence as a benefactor.”
“Jean was incredibly committed to nursing education,” says Carolyn Byrne ’79, ’82, director of the School of Nursing. “She was a wonderful driving force for our undergraduate program.” Byrne and Rankin were young faculty members at the time, with offices next to each other. “We had a wonderful time,” recalls Byrne. “We were young and fearless.”
Rankin moved to Calgary in 1989 to join the Foothills Hospital as director of patient care. She never forgot McMaster, though. “Jean said McMaster was the best place she had ever worked and she would always remember it,” says Byrne.
Rankin passed away in August 2015. True to her word, she had named McMaster as a beneficiary in her will, establishing the E.J. Rankin Bursary for nursing students in financial need. A longstanding Mac supporter, she had already funded another bursary in honour of her father.
“Jean lived life to the fullest, and she was an outstanding teacher,” says Byrne. “This bequest is a wonderful tribute to her life.”
Rankin expressed her own feelings best in a February 2014 email: “I love Mac and think it’s the greatest university going.”
To learn more about leaving a gift in your will, contact Kelly Trickett in University Advancement at 905-525-9140, ext. 21990, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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