Alum Mary McKinley pays tribute to the School of Nursing with planned gift

By Jade Ruggieri, WVUF Communications Intern

Mary McKinleyWest Virginia University alum and Mountain State native Mary McKinley is honoring the difference the School of Nursing made in her life with a gift in her will.

“The School of Nursing can always grow and expand to improve the healthcare of the state so it can be on the cutting-edge of technology and knowledge,” McKinley said. “I want to see a healthcare system that meets the needs of our patients and families in West Virginia, and I think the School of Nursing is a fundamental part of that from hospitals to clinics. Rural health care is so important, and I hope that my gift will help improve the rural healthcare system.”

As a child, Mary McKinley loved going to the library to read “Cherry Ames,” a mystery novel series taking place in a hospital. After talking with her high school guidance counselor, her career path was solidified as she decided to become a nurse and attended the Ohio Valley General Hospital School of Nursing in Wheeling.

During her time at Ohio Valley, she got valuable hands-on experience as she lived and worked at the hospital during her three years in the program. In 1972, she became a registered nurse and stayed at the hospital, focusing on critical care in the intensive care unit.

After a year, she realized she needed more training. She completed her bachelor’s degree from Wheeling College and earned her master’s degree from WVU’s School of Nursing in 1982.

McKinley served the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses as a part of the Board of Directors and eventually became president from 1998-1999. Additionally, McKinley was the clinical nurse specialist and director of education at Ohio Valley Medical Center.

Mary McKinley with her husbandMcKinley and her husband, Congressman David B. McKinley, both have a passion for the state as they want to improve West Virginia and enhance the quality of life. As a part of the congressional office, McKinley serves as an adviser to her husband on healthcare policies.

“It’s important to keep the appreciation of home, and I couldn’t have picked a better place to grow up than in New Martinsville, West Virginia. The best part of West Virginia is its people, and there’s nothing quite like West Virginia once you leave it,” McKinley said.

Currently, McKinley and her husband reside in Wheeling, and McKinley serves on the executive board of Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program, a bi-partisan effort dedicated to providing information to the public to make a difference and helping to reduce cancer rates.

McKinley said one of the most impactful professors during her time at WVU was Mary Jane Smith. She recalled what a relief it was to complete her degree after defending her thesis. WVU shaped McKinley’s career for the rest of her life and continues to offer valuable information for current nursing students.

“My advice to nursing students is it is worth it. Every simulation and every paper is worth it. People in this career go into it to help people with a commitment in their heart,” McKinley said. “Once you’re a nurse, it never leaves you.”

Where does your WVU passion lie? Like Mary, you can channel your giving to the place at the university that means the most to you. Contact Matthew Clark at 304-284-4033 and to learn more.