Remembering Dot: A nursing legacy honored through philanthropy
Labor and delivery nurses care for women during one of life’s most transformative events. For Dorothy “Dot” Marshall Cummings, who guided hundreds of women through childbirth during her career, working with new mothers and babies was more than a job. It was her passion.
Cummings worked as a labor and delivery nurse for nearly four decades in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. A mother of six, she was known among colleagues for her eagerness to teach new moms how to care for their babies and for her commitment to mentoring young nurses.
“She adored children,” said her daughter, Sue Collier (BSN ’81, MSN ’91), who explained that even as she approached the end of her life at age 84, her mom drew others to her with the same engaging personality that so many of her patients loved.
To honor her mother’s lifelong commitment to nursing, Collier created the Dorothy Marshall Cummings Nursing Honors Scholarship. The new award will support full-time students who are enrolled in both the East Carolina University College of Nursing and the ECU Honors College. Students considered for the scholarship must, like Cummings, have an interest in maternal and child health care.
The award is one of two College of Nursing honors scholarships established this year. ECU alumni James and Selba Morris Harris of Alpharetta, Georgia, recently established the James and Selba Harris Honors Scholarship. That scholarship honors Selba Harris (BSN ’64), who graduated as part of the College of Nursing’s first class.
“It is the generosity of alumni like these that helps make the dream of becoming a nurse possible for our students," said College of Nursing Dean Dr. Sylvia Brown. "We are so appreciative of their willingness to give back to their alma mater."
It’s fitting that a nursing honors scholarship is named after Cummings, who embodied nursing’s motto of “service” long past retirement and years after learning she had Alzheimer’s disease. As a long-term resident at Golden LivingCenter in Greenville, she endeared herself to staff and other residents with her concern for the well being of others.
“If there was a resident who was upset across the room, she would try to get to them and comfort them,” said Tracy Taft, who cared for Cummings as an aide at Golden Living Center. “She still tried to help, even it was just holding your hand. That was her heart, that was the kind of person Dot was.”
Cummings’ love for nursing was so great that it inspired others to pursue it as a profession. Witnessing her dedication to helping others inspired Taft to go back to school and become a registered nurse.
“I knew she was a nurse and I wanted to give my life to helping take care of people, even if it wasn’t her,” she said.
Collier herself was inspired by her mother to become a nurse, dreaming of entering the profession from the time she was a little girl. Today the ECU College of Nursing graduate serves as a performance improvement specialist for patient-family engagement with the NC Quality Center at the North Carolina Hospital Association.
The scholarship is a way of building the future of the profession that has been so important to both Collier and her mother.
“A scholarship like this can be the difference between someone not finishing the program or not going to school and becoming a future nurse,” she said, urging others with the means to join her giving efforts.
And the fact that the scholarship honors a wonderful woman at the same time? It doesn’t get much better than that for Collier.
“I think the greatest way to remember someone is to help someone else,” she said.
If you are interested in contributing to this scholarship or setting up your own, please contact Mark Alexander at email@example.com or 252-744-2324.
(Photo: Cummings, fifth from the left in the first row, in her nursing class picture.)