SALEM — A $1.3 million bequest will fund permanent scholarships for students entering Salem State University’s nursing program.
Established as the Martha Evans and Betty Groce Scholarship, the bequest will provide $4,500 scholarships to 10 nursing students each year. The bequest was made in honor of Groce, who wanted to be a nurse but instead cared for her family while husband Walter Groce pursued his career; and Walter’s half-sister, Martha Evans, who planned on a nursing career before passing away from tuberculosis at age 17.
The scholarship will be awarded for the first time next fall, according to a university spokesperson.
Walter and Betty Groce’s son, Robert, said that his parents came from humble beginnings and worked hard throughout their marriage to save and invest.
“When my father, Walter, enrolled in the Army Corps of Engineers Unit in the late 1930s, he saved all his military pay and sent it back to Betty for savings,” he explained. “In the 1950s, he began investing these meager savings in electric, gas, and telephone utility stock.”
Through the 1990s, these original investments grew into a sizable fortune. This is when the Groces decided to fulfill their dreams by ultimately gifting half of their estate to a school of nursing in Betty’s honor, and another portion to the Radio Club of America, as amateur radio communication was Walter’s passion.
“Walter created an ingenious trust as a way to direct his wealth beyond his death,” Robert said of his father. “He devised and initiated a two-phase trust, which distributed all the annual earnings to his grandchildren for 10 years — even past his and Betty’s departure. The grandchildren received an annual income distribution and paid their portion of tax on taxable earnings. After Walter passed away in 2014, Betty amended the original trust to distribute a portion of the Trust holdings to her four children.”
The bequest comes at an important time, Salem State President John Keenan said.
“Amid an ongoing pandemic and a nursing shortage in the years ahead, the impact of this generous gift will reach far beyond Salem State and our students,” Keenan said. “Through the opportunities they have opened up for generations of aspiring nurses, and the communities that will benefit from their care, the Groce family’s deep kindness will touch many lives for years to come.”
Cheryl Crounse, executive director of the Salem State University Foundation, said the university community is “grateful that the Groce family is supporting our nursing students in such a meaningful and needed way, and we are honored to carry out their wishes.”
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