Fifty years of Sims Nursing Scholarships

Published 11:06 pm Monday, April 16, 2018

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the George E. Sims Nursing Scholarships. More than $20 million dollars have been dispensed by the Fuller E. Callaway Foundation, which funds the program.

Tuition and books are covered for up to two years at any school in the country to which the applicant can gain admission.  The value of the scholarship for some students can be greater than $70,000.

After graduation, the nurse is obligated to work at WellStar West Georgia Medical Center for a year-and-a-half per year of tuition provided, or up to three years. Half of the registered nurses currently employed are Sims recipients.

Over the years the competition for scholarship assistance has intensified and the number of qualified candidates has increased. The interview committee does not have an easy time of it.

The committee completed its work recently. It took a day and a half to interview over 20 applicants. One of the current committee members commented that he himself had been serving on the committee now 17 years, which meant that I had been on board since near the Big Bang.

It is interesting to me how effortless some candidates can be — this is, after all, as the 17-year veteran observed, what amounts to a job interview.

For some, walking into the room purposefully, making eye contact and giving firm handshakes comes naturally.

There is art to a graceful sit. This talent is much overlooked, and I have noticed in those who do it well a studied deliberateness. On first entering the room, they at a glance survey the topography, take note of intervening obstacles and mentally register the coordinates. Having arrived at the appointed destination, which is to say the chair at the head of the table not four feet from the door, they stand for a moment to take stock. They offer up to the interlocutors a moment of regard before elegantly seating themselves. It can be a magnificent performance. It may take all of five seconds.

  “The statue smack in the middle of town is the Marquis de Lafayette,” I said to one candidate, not willing to run the risk of her not knowing and thus ruining my thought-out question. “His motto was ‘Why not?’ Why not you, why not now, why not us? What is your motto?”

She owned that she had not been asked this question before, but here is what impressed me: she took time, a moment of blank silence, to think it through. Most people have not given thought to a personal creed, much less articulated it. Here was a mind sharp enough to realize that calculation and not result was at the heart of the probe.

Comes yet another candidate. I did stroke, I fear, the fringe of pontification with her, but I was provoked. The aforementioned 17 year veteran asked, in a manner folksy and unintimidating, whether or not she knew who the statue downtown represented. “Lafayette,” she said.

Undaunted, he asked, “And what is he holding high in his right hand?”

She said she and a friend had checked into this — as best they could tell it was a ribbon.

Most people are unaware of what is in his right hand, and I could no more let this pass than I could decline an Oreo blizzard.

“On July 15, 1789,” I said, “one day after the destruction of the Bastille in France, Lafayette was named commander of the National Guard. He searched for a unifying symbol. He decided on the red, white and blue cockade. White represented the monarchy, red and blue the people of Paris. Lafayette holds high in his right hand the red, white, and blue cockade. George Washington,” I trudged on, “had decided on an Alliance Cockade in 1778 to celebrate the French and American Treaty of Amity. This was a white on black cockade.”

I was not to be denied.

“Furthermore,” I said, “this week celebrates a seminal event in the life of West Georgia. On March 19, 1825, through March 29, 1825, Lafayette visited, successively, Savannah, Augusta, Milledgeville and Macon before crossing the Chattahoochee at Fort Mitchell into Alabama. He made comment while here that this area reminded him of his home in France, the Chateau de LaGrange. Hearing this, Colonel Julius Caesar Alford, who lived where Smith Hall is today, suggested the name LaGrange for a settlement taking root nearby.”

She listened attentively. I gave her good marks.

Richard L. Ingram is a member of the Lafayette Alliance