The UT College of Nursing has received the largest gift in its history—$7.5 million—from alumna Sara Croley and her husband, Ross. The purpose of the gift is twofold, with $5.5 million supporting the college’s building renovation and expansion and $2 million establishing the Sara Rosenbalm Croley Endowed Dean’s Chair.
Dean Victoria Niederhauser announced the milestone gift at the college’s 11th annual NightinGala celebration on October 4. Pending approval from the Board of Trustees, the renovated space will be named the Croley Nursing Building.
“This renovated and expanded building will provide students and faculty with an experiential learning environment that is inclusive and welcoming—that fosters collaboration and supports the growing academic and research mission of the College of Nursing,” said Niederhauser.
The renovated and expanded building will allow the college to significantly increase its enrollment. The college has had to turn away highly qualified applicants because of a lack of space and resources.
As an alumna, Sara Croley recognizes the need for more nurses.
“Having worked as a nurse for many years, I have cared for people during some of their most difficult moments. Nurses play such an important role in people’s lives,” said Croley. “Ross and I are investing in the future of nursing in Tennessee. We hope this gift opens a door of opportunity for many more amazing nurses to enter the workforce.”
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth rate for registered and advanced practice nurses will exceed that of most professions over the next 10 years, with 1.2 million registered nurse vacancies expected nationwide between 2014 and 2022. In Tennessee, a recent workforce projection study estimates a 40 percent increase in registered nurse job growth.
This projected shortage bears serious consequences, potentially preventing people from accessing affordable skilled care. To meet the continued workforce demands in Tennessee and beyond, the college has enacted a five-year plan to increase its annual enrollment by about 55 percent—going from 800 students in 2018 to 1,250 in 2023. Keeping pace with this growth, the college also plans to increase the number of faculty and staff members.
The current nursing building, 41 years old and 42,000 square feet, houses 100 faculty members, 33 staff members, and more than 920 undergraduate and graduate students. Most faculty members are sharing office space, and students do not have a common area to study or interact with classmates.
The renovated and expanded building, projected to be approximately 100,000 square feet, will serve as a home for learning, advising, interdisciplinary collaboration, student activities, and research. The new space will also house the college’s nationally recognized Health Innovation Technology and Simulation Laboratory, which is currently located in another building across campus.
The $60 million anticipated cost for the project will be funded through a combination of donations and state funds. The college has set a campaign goal to raise $10 million in private support. In addition to their donation, the Croleys have agreed to serve as campaign chairs.
“The majority of our Bachelor of Science in Nursing students work in Tennessee after graduation, with an estimated 45 to 60 percent remaining in the Knoxville area,” said Niederhauser. “This investment is one that is certain to pay off for Tennessee.”
Chip Bryant, vice chancellor of advancement, said the Croleys exemplify the Volunteer spirit.
“We are grateful for Ross and Sara’s investment in the success of our students, the university, and the state,” he said. “This gift will have a tremendous impact.”
About the Join the Journey Campaign
The Join the Journey campaign is helping to position the university among the nation’s elite. The comprehensive fundraising campaign focuses on increasing support for undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships, faculty support, college priorities, and athletics. The funds raised are creating a student experience that reaches beyond the ordinary, shaping the next generation of leaders for the state, nation, and world.