Gunnell Memorial Scholarship Established

Friday, June 19, 2009

In 1964, the city hospital in Villa Rica was a modest clinic that served the local area. But that year, it would benefit from the arrival of Ila Mae Gunnell, who would devote 32 years to helping build what is now Tanner Medical Center/ Villa Rica into a highly respected health care facility.

Now, to honor her memory, Mrs. Gunnell’s family and friends have established an endowed scholarship in the amount of $10,000 at the University of West Georgia’s School of Nursing.

Mrs. Gunnell, a mother of five, had no formal medical training, but always wanted to be a nurse and cared deeply about providing quality health care. She served in many capacities at the medical center, including in an instrumental role in helping form the respiratory therapy department, which was one of the first units of its kind in the area outside of the major Atlanta hospitals. That unit is now among the most highly regarded in the region.

Mrs. Gunnell, who passed away last month at the age of 85, forged a remarkable career out of her desire to work in the medical field.

“Mother always wanted to be a nurse, but she was never able to. But when she had the opportunity to work in a hospital, it was right up her alley,” said daughter Judy McTyre.

Mrs. Gunnell’s children thought establishing a scholarship for students pursuing a career in nursing presented an ideal opportunity to pay tribute to their mother’s work.

“We felt like this was a wonderful way to honor her legacy – to help others achieve something she valued so much,” said daughter Carol Maynard.

Another of Mrs. Gunnell’s daughters, Gail Beard, said assisting students in reaching their goals carried on her mother’s spirit of caring.

“What can we do for you? That’s what nursing is about. That’s what made her so special.”

Mrs. Gunnell’s work inspired others, daughter Becky King said.

“She touched many lives, and this scholarship will help maintain her influence,” she said.

The scholarship, which is available to employees or children of employees of Tanner Medical Center/ Villa Rica or Paulding WellStar Hospital, will also serve as a reminder to people connected with those institutions of the work of Mrs. Gunnell, her son said.

“This is something to make life a little easier for the folks who work at those hospitals or their children,” Terry Gunnell said. “What we were interested in was helping in her name and her honor people who might need an assist in reaching their goals.”

Mrs. Gunnell’s contribution to nursing in the West Georgia region was substantial, and the scholarship will help commemorate that, said Dr. Kathryn Grams, dean of the UWG School of Nursing.

“We are exceptionally grateful for the family’s generosity in establishing this scholarship. It will enable students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue their education in this important field,” Grams said.