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New undergraduate nursing scholarship established through Heather Miller Memorial Golf Classic

Heather Miller

Heather Miller

The Heather Miller Memorial Golf Classic, which recognized its 15th year on July 29, had already established two fully endowed scholarships for the West Virginia University School of Nursing — one undergraduate and one graduate level. Thanks to this year’s funding, an additional undergraduate scholarship is being established.

“It has grown so much,” shares Jody Miller, mother of the scholarship’s namesake, Heather. “This year we had 152 golfers and numerous volunteers. To date, 197 nursing scholarships have been given away to local students.”

The scholarships are a way to honor Heather, a 21-year-old who was killed in March 2008 following injuries sustained from an alcohol-related car crash. Her memory lives on in so many ways, including that she was an organ donor — she “gifted” five organs, four of which were transplanted successfully, including her heart, both kidneys and her liver. Her gift of tissue donation enhanced the lives of more than 50 people.

Heather was a senior at the WVU School of Nursing, just a few weeks shy of graduation. She had interviewed for a position at WVU Medicine J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital; after her passing, her parents, Jody and Gary, learned their daughter had been chosen for the job.

“She was always very driven,” Jody said. “There was no task she wouldn’t attempt. She’d always been a caregiver. She was 2 when my second was born, so she took on the role of a mom at a very early age.”

Jody said her daughter’s decision to go into nursing came as no surprise.

“She was caring and compassionate,” she said. “She wanted to do the best she could to make others’ lives better.”

The WVU School of Nursing brought Heather’s cap and gown to the family and Heather was buried with them. There were hundreds of people attending her funeral; family, friends, relatives, nursing students, medical doctors and nursing staff that took care of her, law enforcement, and even strangers. The School of Nursing also invited the family to attend the May commencement ceremony, where a white rose awaited them. The family was presented with Heather’s diploma posthumously. A bell ringing ceremony was also held on the plaza in remembrance of Heather.

After Heather’s funeral, Jody could not let it rest. The fact that other people’s lives had benefitted through Heather’s selfless act of being an organ donor gave Jody, even through the most horrific tragedy, a glimmer of hope to carry on. She wanted another way to honor her daughter’s memory. Jody and Gary, along with Heather’s three siblings, Sarah, Samuel and Nathan, as well as other family and community members, banded together to establish the Heather Miller Memorial Golf Classic to raise money for nursing scholarships.

Heather’s family held the first golf tournament just three months after she passed.

“It was extremely difficult and emotional for our family. We felt that if we could award at least one nursing scholarship to a student that had the same qualities as Heather, we would feel like we accomplished what our mission was.”

Little did she know the tournament would one day provide scholarships to nearly 200 future nurses… and counting.

To learn more, visit Heather Miller Memorial on Facebook.

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