stanley behrens has created an edowment at the UC Irvine School of Nursing

Philanthropist Stanley Behrens has created an endowment at the UCI Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing.

Stanley Behrens has a vision of how nursing has to look in the future.

In it, more nurses are in the highest echelons of health system and government leadership. More of them are leading major, world-changing research that creates healthier societies, happier individuals and safer hospitals.

“I feel that nurses are neglected. I want to change that,” the Irvine philanthropist says.

“That’s very important. I feel it strongly. Nurses are on the front lines. They are not given their due.”

To bring his vision to reality, Behrens has funded the UCI Behrens Nursing Endowment with $100,000. The fund awards a fellowship to a PhD student at the UCI Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing each year. Each gift will be matched by the UCI Graduate Division for 10 years.

Nursing’s first fellow

PhD student Alexandria Jones-Patten is the first Behrens nursing fellow. She is studying the relationship between experience of real or perceived racism and willingness to quit smoking among unhoused African-American men.

Jones-Patten ultimately wants to reduce the rate of heart disease in the United States, particularly in underserved communities where education and intervention are needed most.

“We are essential,” says Jones-Patten, a nurse. “We are so essential to the further development of healthcare and how we take care of the public. I’m excited that he sees and understands that.”

She was chosen for her research and the promise it holds for creating a better, healthier world.

In addition, Behrens offered an additional $2,500 award to honor the work of PhD student Sara Rodrigues, which was matched by Distinguished Professor Adey Nyamathi, founding dean of the school.

Longtime UCI philanthropist

Behrens is no stranger to UCI.

The successful international businessman has used his fortune to support undergraduate, transfer and graduate students at the university for decades.

In 2016, he created the Stanley Behrens Fellows in Medicine to support doctoral students engaged in novel translational research. Through it, he has supported six students since 2016 in hopes that one day, one or more of them will earn the Nobel prize.

Now, he turns his focus to nursing with the same hope.

The impetus was a massive stroke he had on a plane while traveling home from a trip to Australia. He was rushed to a regional medical center for surgery, then he went on to a 45-day recovery in assisted living.

“For the first two weeks, it looked like I would die. But I gradually got stronger,” he remembers.

“I attribute that to nursing and I want to do that for nursing. It’s a miracle to be alive.”

Endowment backed by school’s first advisory council

The endowment is backed by the UCI Behrens Nursing School Advisory Council, a first for the school. The council includes Behrens, family, friends, community, nursing faculty, staff and, for the inaugural year, Nyamathi.

Every three to five years, the endowment will also provide a fellowship award in honor of a school faculty or staff member.

Behrens sees no limit to the endowment. He dreams of a world where any nurse who wants a graduate education can get one.

“Stanley wants to enhance nursing education,” says Christine Nakamoto, the council’s co-chair. “One of the ways to do that is by giving them the opportunity to get that scholarship, get that degree, go into leadership roles and do unique research. He’s supportive of that.”

A milestone birthday approaching

Behrens turns 100 in May, but he is far from slowing down.

He is actively involved in the scholarships he supports because they support promising students who will make an impact in the areas he is passionate about — science, healthcare and music.

“I like music. I like the quiet time. It complements the things that happen around me. I have that kind of nature.”

Behrens is already thinking about what he’s going to do next and which other areas need support. He’s thinking about ways to make his endowment bigger and even better so he can help even more nurses go into leadership and have a seat at the table.

“My wife Jessica used to call me a bouncing ball.”


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