Gifts Promote Compassionate Nursing Care

Barbara Wulfe has created an endowment for the white coat ceremony and a scholarship to support Ph.D. students to honor her husband, Sonny, and the nurses who cared for him.

By Catherine Duncan

Barbara and Sonny Wulfe enjoyed travelling together. This photo captures the couple boarding a train in Alaska.

Barbara Wulfe, a San Antonio native, said she wasn’t particularly familiar with the rigors of nursing school or the nursing profession when Maria Cristina Rodriguez, B.S.N. Class of 1973, RN, invited her to join the Nursing Advisory Council (NAC) for UT Health San Antonio’s School of Nursing.
“I had been on a number of boards over the years and found that I enjoyed serving on boards with missions I wasn’t especially familiar with. I find it very interesting to learn about new aspects of my community,” she said. “I thought the nursing school and its programs were fascinating.”
As an emerita member of the NAC and a dedicated supporter of the School of Nursing, Barbara indicated she has been with the school through previous deans and had the privilege of serving on a dean’s selection committee.

When asked why she has stayed involved with the school for so many years, Barbara shares there is one reason: Eileen T. Breslin, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, who has served as dean since 2008. UT Health is fortunate to have Dean Breslin, she said. “She is very articulate and can put plans into action. Eileen has put this school in a beautiful position for future success and growth. She is truly an inspiration to me.”

Barbara also attributes her longtime support of the nursing school to the care her beloved husband, Sonny, received as he battled multiple health issues toward the end of his life. “My daughter and I saw nurses going above and beyond to take care of Sonny. Nurses can make a very difficult time a little easier for all of us.”

Like his wife, Sonny grew up in San Antonio. He graduated from Trinity University while Barbara earned her degree from UT Austin. Barbara said she met Sonny when he was her little brother’s Boy Scout leader. “I still don’t know how he ended up in my parents’ living room. That is where we met, and we were married a year later,” she recalled.

“Even at my young age, I thought he would be a good husband and father. I just didn’t understand how great he would one day be in those roles.” The couple have three children and six grandchildren.

Sonny died in 2011 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. “He was such a fun guy. He was always so optimistic. When he passed away, it was clear that he had impacted our community, as his passing received coverage on the news and many people expressed their appreciation for him.”

As a young man, Sonny joined his father and brother to form Alamo Aircraft Supply Inc., which is one of the largest surplus military aircraft parts companies in the country. Before retiring, he served as president of Alamo Aircraft, and served as president of the National Association of Aircraft & Communication Suppliers.

Barbara Wulfe (center) enjoys visiting with Mary Lee Potter (left), Ph.D., RN, and Kelly McGlothen-Bell, Ph.D., RN, who are both Ph.D. student scholarship recipients, during an annual student scholarship luncheon. Dr. McGlothen-Bell is now an assistant professor at the School of Nursing.

As a way to honor nurses who help patients like Sonny during difficult hospital stays, Barbara created the Barbara and Sonny Wulfe Living Endowment to fund scholarships for Ph.D. students at the School of Nursing.

“I wanted to assist students who are very serious about the nursing profession,” she said. “The school selects a scholarship recipient each year. I have the opportunity to meet the students at the annual Scholarship Luncheon, and I really enjoy hearing how passionate the students are about nursing and what their plans are following their studies.”

This is a relatively modest scholarship that helps one student per year, Barbara explained. “I think a lot of people can support students very directly at a level that is comfortable for them. You don’t have to give a lot to make a real difference for a student, and the UT Health School of Nursing is such an excellent investment.”

In 2019, Barbara decided to expand her support with the creation of the Barbara and Sonny Wulfe White Coat Ceremony Endowment for Nursing Excellence. The white coat ceremony welcomes new students into the nursing profession.

Dean Breslin said, “White coat ceremonies serve to elevate humanism as the core of health care and provide a powerful emphasis on compassion in combination with evidence-based practice and scientific excellence. Students are cloaked by faculty in the iconic white coat that signifies their status as health care professionals. They then recite an oath to commit to the core values of nursing practice and the continued development of knowledge.”

The School of Nursing greatly appreciates Barbara’s generous investment supporting its mission to prepare compassionate, patient-centered nurse leaders, Dr. Breslin said. “The endowment also honors her incredible devotion, love and care for Sonny. Barbara’s visionary support, which will touch each student entering their studies at UT Health’s School of Nursing, demonstrates the impact of philanthropy for generations of nursing students and alumni who may consider giving back to the school once they are in a position to support students who will follow their path.”

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In the 2020 issue of Tribute

Tribute is the official magazine for the alumni and friends of the School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Read and share inspiring stories highlighting our alumni, faculty and students who are revolutionizing education, research, patient care and critical services in the communities they serve.

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