Ebersbach estate trustees announce $4.7 million total gifts to nursing school

Dorothy Ebersbach’s desire to help others stretched even further today as the trustees of her estate announced a second $2 million commitment to support flight nursing at Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. The decision brings her total gifts to the school to $4.7 million.

The announcement came less than a year after Ebersbach herself pledged $2 million to support the school’s first-of-its-kind acute care flight nursing initiative, originally launched in 2002. Amid the program’s annual weeklong summer camp, Ebersbach’s friends and members of the Case Western Reserve community had gathered to honor her life and dedicate the Dorothy Ebersbach Academic Center for Flight Nursing. But then came a whole new reason to celebrate a woman whose great spirit was exceeded only by her compassion.

“I know that Dorothy is smiling down on us today,” said Gayla Russell, co-trustee of Ebersbach’s estate and a longtime friend. “She loved her time at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, as well as her experiences as pilot in World War II. These gifts combine two of her greatest passions in one wonderful program.”

A Pomeroy, Ohio, native, Ebersbach earned her pilot’s license in 1939 and soon after applied to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots. After an extensive evaluation process to winnow down the 25,000 candidates, Ebersbach became one of fewer than 1,100 female aviators to fly with the program. Stationed stateside, the women towed targets for artillery practice, delivered cargo and also transported the planes themselves from one site to another. In 2009, Ebersbach was one of 300 surviving members of the WASP program to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for service during the war.

Ebersbach graduated from Case Western Reserve in 1954, and went on to a distinguished career in public health in the Tampa, Florida area. Her ties to the Frances Payne Bolton School remained strong, however, and in the fall of 2011, she made a $2 million pledge to the flight nursing program.  In November of that year, she passed away. As the trustees of her estate, Gayla Russell and Foster Aldridge weighed what bequests would best meet their dear friend’s desires. Ultimately, they decided to provide additional support for flight nursing – this time targeted directly at supporting students and teachers both.

“It is humbling to see that this brave and pioneering woman believed so passionately in the mission of flight nursing,” said Mary Kerr, dean of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. “Our charge now is to lift our own education and research to meet the great aspirations she had for us.”

By providing scholarships for undergraduates and fellowships for graduate students, the Dorothy Ebersbach Academic Center for Flight Nursing will be able to expand the number of advanced practice nurses who receive this intensive, innovative training. In addition, endowing the position of flight nursing program director helps ensure the long-term sustainability of the initiative, in particular by allowing additional resources to be concentrated on research and overall program enhancement.

“Flight nursing is more than getting the patient to the hospital in the shortest amount of time,” said Christopher Manacci, director of the Dorothy Ebersbach Academic Center for Flight Nursing. “It’s about bringing ER or ICU care to the field.”