Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2009-09-20

A man who was cited as an “angel of mercy in the fullest sense” to Samford University’s Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing was honored as the first recipient of the school’s Angel Award Friday evening, Sept. 18.

The late Thomas Edgar “Tom” Jernigan, said nursing dean Dr. Nena Sanders, was responsible for scholarships that will ensure that students for generations to come are able to receive the education and training needed as nursing professionals.

“Thomas Jernigan had the courage to care for others, and the world is better for it,” said Sanders.

The Angel Award recognizes an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to the nursing school.

Jernigan's widow, Donna Jernigan, accepted the award at the nursing school’s first Courage to Care Awards Gala, held in Samford’s Hanna Center.
Her late husband, though a humble man, would have appreciated the award, she said after the ceremony.

“He loved the nursing profession. He was very giving, and nurses are very giving people,” she said, noting that her husband’s appreciation for nurses intensified in 2003 during a serious illness that included two heart operations and lung surgery.

Jernigan was president of Marathon Corporation, a real estate company, and a noted Birmingham business leader at the time of his death in 2008.

The award is a smaller replica of the Angel of Mercy statue that stands outside the Dwight and Lucille Beeson Center for the Healing Arts, which houses the nursing school.

The gala also honored alumni of Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing and its forerunner, Birmingham Baptist Hospital, who exemplify the “courage to care” through their past or current nursing practice.

The term is associated with the school’s namesake and faculty member, the late Ida V. Moffett, who noted, “It takes courage to care, to open the heart and act with sympathy and compassion.”

The inaugural recipients of the Courage to Care awards were nominated by their peers and co-workers as having the courage to care, said Sanders. The 14 honorees are:

Dana Benton, clinical coordinator, labor and delivery, at Brookwood Medical Center.
Cecile Cherry, a nurse educator in the Cardiovascular Operating Room at UAB Hospital.
Gloria Deitz, nurse manager of the 6 West Surgical Unit at Princeton Baptist Medical Center.
Carol Donaldson, nursing information systems coordinator at Princeton Baptist Medical Center.
Lorene Hansford, nursing director of Surgical Services at Princeton Baptist Medical Center.
Lindsey M. Harris, Clinical Level II nurse and day shift charge nurse on the benign gynecology/gynecology oncology unit at UAB Hospital.
Connie Hogewood, clinical coordinator, perinatal services, at Brookwood Medical Center.
Knox “Kim” M. Hurst III, an anesthesia department clinical manager of the orthopedic and sports medicine center at St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Kathy Livingston, education and bariatric coordinator at Princeton Baptist Medical Center.
Vanessa McNeil, nurse manger of the medical/surgical oncology unit at Trinity Medical Center.
Christy A. Nation, director of Women's Services at Brookwood Medical Center.
Dr. Carol Ratcliffe, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing executive at St. Vincent’s East.
Joan E. Walker, clinical nurse specialist in the Medical Nursing Division at UAB Hospital.
The late Dr. Margaret Millsap, a longtime nurse and nursing educator who served on the faculties of schools of nursing at Birmingham-Southern College, Samford and UAB.

Samford president Dr. Andrew Westmoreland shared his admiration for nursing students and professionals whose chosen career, he noted, puts them “confronted immediately with life and death.”

Sanders closed the ceremony with a reference to the angel Clarence, who helped the character George Bailey in the Frank Capra film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” to realize that his life had significance and that he had made a difference in the lives of others.

“As I reflected on the lives of these award recipients, I thought about this story and wondered, what would the world of nursing and patient care be like if there had not been a Mrs. Moffett or a Mr. Jernigan, or the nursing leaders we have recognized tonight?” said Sanders.

“Like George, we often take for granted what we have, how blessed we are, and how our life makes a difference in the lives of others. These individuals have given of themselves unselfishly and as a result, have demonstrated the courage to care.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.