In 2008, then Lander nursing major Meghan Diane Hawley of Orangeburg was diagnosed with cancer and would have to undergo treatment. As medical expenses began to mount, Hawley's classmates and faculty members at Lander rallied to her aid, raising thousands of dollars and even supplying her with a hospital survival kit filled with snacks, drinks and other essentials for recovery.
"The support Meghan received while at Lander was tremendous. From students to faculty and staff, there was a tremendous outpouring of love and devotion to Meghan throughout her illness," said Jeff Hawley, Meghan's father.
Despite her illness, Meghan Hawley returned to Lander and the Hawleys knew they could count on the support of the nursing faculty.
"I always knew that I could call and ask questions about her return and receive compassion and understanding in response," said Meghan's mother, Lita Hawley. "The staff never made concessions for Meghan, and yet they understood and had great compassion for her. Meghan would not have wanted to be treated differently."
Meghan graduated from Lander in December of 2009, receiving the Department of Nursing's Professional Development Award. By then her cancer had gone into remission. She went on to work as a cardiac care nurse at Providence Hospital in Columbia. According to her father, Meghan often talked about her time at Lander. "Meghan loved attending Lander and especially the nursing program," he said. "She talked about how the program prepared her for the team environment required in the nursing profession."
Meghan's fellow graduates and the university's nursing faculty continued to think of her as well. And when her cancer returned, so did the support from the university community. "The faculty at one point, asked if they could come visit Meghan," said Jeff Hawley. "When she knew that the battle with cancer would soon be over, many former classmates reached out to her with visits and calls."
Meghan died in November 2010. But before she passed, she returned the generosity and support she had received from the university community by making Lander one of the beneficiaries of her insurance policy. This money was contributed by Meghan and her family to form the Meghan Diane Hawley Memorial Scholarship.
"It was Meghan’s decision to establish this scholarship," said Jeff Hawley. "Meghan wanted to be able to help people who might face a similar situation someday, and who, because of a health problem, lost a scholarship and could not return to school as rapidly because of financial reasons as they recovered from their illness."
Meghan's act of generosity spurred a fervor of support from her friends, family, nursing colleagues and Lander alumni, faculty and staff, resulting in almost doubling the scholarship fund she established with her insurance policy. Including Meghan's contribution and the overwhelming amount of individual donations, the fund has now exceeded $25,000.
According to Ralph Patterson, Lander's vice president for University Advancement, Meghan's contribution is an amazing tribute to Lander and the university's nursing program.
"For Meghan to have Lander in her heart during such a difficult time in her life can never be forgotten, and now it never will be," he said "And it’s a tremendous validation of our outstanding nursing program."
Patterson added, "Meghan's gift says a lot about the quality of the education that our students are receiving, but also speaks to the caliber of our students. Meghan understood the value of giving back at a young age, and it meant that she had a strong affection for her faculty and classmates at Lander, but also that she had been raised by her parents in a special way that enabled her to have a vision to help Lander and future students."
Bernice Daugherty, chair of Lander's Nursing Department, said, "Meghan was very compassionate, her fellow students loved her and her clinical skills were excellent. We refer to her as a bright light, and down through the years Meghan's light will continue to shine because of this scholarship."