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Gift Allows Collin To Create $400,000 Endowed Chair

Florence Marie Dickinson, circa 1922.
Photo courtesy of the Dickinson family.

Jan. 24, 2006 - Today, Collin County Community College District (Collin) announced a major gift from local philanthropist Richard R. Dickinson and his wife Barbara, of McKinney, to establish a $400,000 endowed faculty chair in the department of nursing.

The Florence Marie Dickinson Endowed Chair in Nursing, named after Richard's late mother, was established to "further the attraction and retention of a highly qualified nursing faculty." Earnings from the trust will also support student scholarships.

This is the third major gift in as many years for Collin. In July 2004, Richardson-based Texas Instruments became the first corporation to give $1 million to the college. Then in March 2005, Collin received a $1 million donation from the estate of Royden L. Lebrecht. Dickinson's gift will create the second endowed chair as part of the college Foundation's initiative to promote the creation of endowed chairs throughout the college.

"Mr. Dickinson is a very selfless visionary, and his gift comes with a remarkable story behind it," said Sam Roach, chairman of Collin's Board of Trustees. "He is naming this endowment after his late mother, Florence, who was a very dedicated nurse and an inspiration for generations to come. We are honored to be the recipient of Mr. Dickinson's generosity."

According to college president Cary Israel, "The need for qualified nurses has never been greater, so the scholarships from this endowment will be an immense gift to both students and our vibrant community. Also, attracting and maintaining qualified nursing faculty is a challenge for all colleges and universities because of competition from industry. The establishment of an endowed chair in nursing will give us an edge."

Florence Marie Dickinson was born in 1902 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, to Swedish immigrants. By the time she was only 10 years old, both her parents had died, leaving Florence and many of her siblings in the care of a state orphanage.

After graduating from college, Florence moved to California and began her career as a nurse in a county hospital. Eventually, she married Raymond R. Dickinson, and had two boys, Richard and William.

She returned to work as a nurse to support her boys after her husband suffered a series of strokes that led to his death in 1940. During her interesting and varied career as a nurse, Florence worked as a home nurse for a well-known family in Orange County and in a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients. She passed away in 1970.

"Our students are dedicated, hardworking and cream-of-the-crop, much like the late Mrs. Dickinson herself," President Israel said. "That's why part of the earnings from the trust will go to support student scholarships."

From 1995 to 2003, the Collin Nursing Department program tripled its annual enrollments and graduated 424 students. Last year, the program began admitting students twice a year to meet demand. For Collin nursing students, the average pass rate on the state licensure exam is an impressive 96.87 percent.

"To fill the desperate need for qualified nurses, we need to take advantage of every opportunity to expand our capacities," said Merry McBryde-Foster, dean of Health Sciences and Emergency Services. "This gift will mean a great deal to the nursing program and our students."

"Our family believes the endowment supports the philosophy that my honored mother, Florence Dickinson, lived," said Richard Dickinson. "Despite her early hardships, Mother was able to study nursing at Middlesex Hospital in Connecticut thanks to a bequest from an older brother who died fighting in World War I. She passed on to me and my brother, William, the values of hard work and high aspirations." Richard Dickinson worked since he was 10 years old, went on to graduate from the California Institute of Technology, and later enjoyed a 40-year career as an engineer and executive with Texaco.

"Richard Dickinson has a very strong work ethic and a sense of civic pride," said Israel. "On behalf of the board, faculty and students in the Collin nursing department, we thank him for this endowment." The endowment will be administered through the college's Foundation and Development Office.

For more information, call 972.881.5611.

Collin County Community College District (Collin) serves more than 40,000 credit and continuing education students annually and offers more than 100 degree and certificate programs. The only public college in the county, Collin is a partner to business, government and industry, providing customized training and work force development.