Bridgett Oliver Memorial Scholarship Fund

By Don Bowman

Isabel Botha ’18, center, with Skilled Nursing Unit Manager Nicole Ratcliffe RN, B.S.N. ’02, left, and Deanna Kelly, right, at Highland Ridge Rehab Center in Dublin.
Isabel Botha ’18, center, with Skilled Nursing Unit Manager Nicole Ratcliffe RN, B.S.N. ’02, left, and Deanna Kelly, right, at Highland Ridge Rehab Center in Dublin.

With scholarship, nursing student carries on a colleague’s work 

Since high school, Isabel Botha ’18 dreamed of being a labor and delivery nurse. Becoming the first recipient of the Bridgett Oliver Memorial Scholarship helped her continue on the path to her goal.

Botha shadowed a neo-natal nurse practitioner in a hospital. The experience was profound and gave her focus and motivation.

“I totally fell in love with it,” said Botha. “It was a powerful and beautiful experience.”

The passion for helping women and babies unite Botha and the scholarship’s namesake, Bridgett Oliver ’17.

Oliver, of New Castle, died as the result of an automobile accident on March 31, 2017. She was 21 and a senior honors nursing major. Fellow honors nursing student Rachel Jones ’17, of Dinwiddie, was seriously injured in the same accident.

To honor Oliver and support students like Botha, the School of Nursing (SON) community and the Radford Honors Academy community came together with the Oliver family to endow the scholarship. To ensure that the scholarship would be fully endowed and help a junior nursing student right away, the Oliver family made up the difference at the deadline. 

Botha, who was a student in an anatomy class for which Oliver was a teaching assistant last year, said, “I want to thank those who created this memorial to Bridgett, and I will honor her and her memory in the specialty for which we share a passion.”

To Botha, Oliver was a sterling example of both the SON and nursing cultures into which she is eager to advance.

“She always made time to encourage us with advice, study tips, time management ideas, whatever,” Botha said. “She volunteered to keep the lab open for us, coached us and made time for us.”

To Sharla Cooper, associate professor of nursing, Oliver characterized nursing and those who succeed in it.

“We continually raise the bar for these students. Our students continually respond. They are ready, they work  hard, smile and keep giving good care.” said Cooper. “Bridgett was compassionate, courageous, determined — the definition of caring.”

Oliver’s influence transcended the SON. She was a member of Radford’s Honors Academy as well. Oliver’s poster presentation on neo-natal care, titled “A Little Dose of Being Held Close,” was presented at the 2017 Student Undergraduate Engagement Forum days after her and Jones’ accident, which occurred as they returned from their presentations at the Southern Regional Honors Conference.

In support of the Radford University initiative to honor Oliver, the Southern Regional Honors Council (SRHC) joined the Oliver family and more than 100 individuals with a substantial gift to the fund.

Niels Christensen, director of the Radford Honors Academy and professor of psychology, was touched by the kindness of the honors community and their donation. 

“The state/regional/national honors community is full of good folks whose contribution reflects a commitment to supporting the efforts to grow and succeed by so many other young people like her,” Christensen said.

School of Nursing Director Tony Ramsey reflected on the power of the philanthropy inspired by Oliver’s tragic death.

“The School of Nursing community, the nursing community and the Radford family have made a powerful statement of support for young people like Bridgett who are inspired to make an impact in a career of service to others,” Ramsey said.

Jun 28, 2018