Skip to Content

The Gift of an "Angel" to the College of Nursing

Betty Clark

Twice widowed, Betty Clark lost her mother, sister, and best friend all in the same year, but even with life’s series of sorrows and betrayals, she holds fast to being an “angel” for someone else. The Betty Clark Burnell Endowed Scholarship will help undergraduate nursing students obtain their degrees.

By Chandra Harris-McCray

She remembers Kim, a young girl who was hospitalized for two years after swallowing lye and severely burning her mouth, throat and stomach. She remembers the face of the young boy whose body was covered in burns after surviving a house fire.

Even though Betty Clark has not made the rounds on a hospital floor in seven years—she retired in 2004 after a 40-plus-year career in nursing—she never has forgotten the faces of her patients, and she rarely forgets their names.

An Early Call to Nursing
As a child, sitting at the bedside of her ill grandfather, it was the smiling faces of nurses that left an impression on Clark.

Gingerly walking down the hallways of the hospital, dressed in crisp, white uniforms—dresses, not pants—with matching white hosiery and shoes, nurses toted the charts of patients and were just as knowledgeable as the doctors they followed. They shouldered so much responsibility with pride and little fanfare that "they seemed surreal and almost angelic to me," Clark recalled. "I was just a little girl, but I knew I wanted to be one of them."

The oldest of three children, Clark said, "I grew up in a household where we did not have a lot. We were poor and everyone around us was poor, but we did not know it because we had everything we needed—the basic necessities and love."

Clark's parents instilled in her a reverence for education. "Even though I knew my choices were to either become a teacher or a nurse, it was more options than my parents ever had," she said.

At 17, Clark, a Maryville, Tenn., native, enrolled in the School of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Research Center and Hospital, the predecessor to the UT Medical Center, along with 60 other women.

"After six months of classes on 'The Hill' and clinical experience at the hospital, I worked my first night shift as a student nurse," she said. "The program was rigorous with studies in medical, surgical, pediatric, psychiatric and outpatient nursing, but I was determined not just to do well in a class, but to graduate."

Many of her classmates chose marriage over graduation and never finished their studies. In 1962, Clark graduated with her nursing diploma and was told by a faculty member to "always wear your nursing cap with pride and upon the standards of your chosen profession."

She did, and still does, even without wearing a nursing cap or starched, stiff uniform.

Clark's eyes still glimmer with excitement as she remembers the beginning of her nursing career. Making $255 a month, Clark shared an apartment on Clinch Avenue and worked from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. on 5 East—the surgical floor of the UT Hospital. "That lasted for a year. I moved to the pediatrics floor and worked the day shift."

Not Just a Career, But a Lifestyle

After the birth of her two children, Clark became a PTA mom and received an honorary lifetime membership in the Tennessee PTA organization. "But I never really gave up nursing. I organized the very first health clinic at Bluegrass School. I volunteered for the Red Cross, at my children's schools in the nurse's office..."

By the early '80s Clark had enrolled in some refresher nursing courses at the prompting of a colleague, and "I fell in love with nursing all over again. It was as if it had never left me."

As an oncology nurse for nearly a decade at Blount Memorial Hospital and former president and charter member of the Tennessee Valley Oncology Nursing Society, Clark became engrossed and fascinated by cutting-edge cancer research and treatments, so much so that she joined the team of a cancer research center.

"It was just as exciting as when I first started my career. I was one of the first nurses in the United States to become an oncology certified nurse," she said. "We were making discoveries that changed and saved lives.

"I remember two women who were at the end of trying this and that. One had stage-four breast cancer and the other had stage-four ovarian cancer. They survived, and they were not just patients, they are two of my dearest friends."

It was those friends who helped Clark see her way through a dark tunnel after being diagnosed with a rare form of cervical cancer. In 2000, after losing her husband six months earlier, she became a patient and was told her survival rate was less than five percent.

"Obviously, my purpose was not fulfilled," she says. "I still had more people to care for."

She is caring for nurses she will never meet by remembering UT Knoxville's College of Nursing in her will and creating an endowed scholarship.

Twice widowed, Clark lost her mother, sister and best friend all in the same year, but even with life's series of sorrows and betrayals, she holds fast to a quiet resolve and humble demeanor.

"You have angels in life and you do not even know it," she says. "So I have lived my life channeled into helping other people.

"And I would do it all over again. I would not change a thing."

Request our guide to learn how you can leave a legacy for others through a gift in your will or trust.

eBrochure Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the brochure.

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to The University Of Tennessee a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to The University Of Tennessee [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to UT or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate, or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the gift tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to UT as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and receive an immediate federal income tax charitable deduction. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to UT as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and UT where you agree to make a gift to UT and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

Personal Estate Planning Kit Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the materials for planning your estate.