UConn School of Nursing Receives Largest Gift in University’s History

New building, increasing enrollment to help address critical shortage of nurses

Students receiving instruction on performing CPR in a School of Nursing Simulation Lab.

Students receiving instruction on performing CPR in a School of Nursing Simulation Lab on April 2, 2021. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

Elisabeth DeLuca ’69 (NUR) has made a gift of $40 million to the University of Connecticut—the largest in the University’s history for any purpose—that will position the School of Nursing to be a leader in combating the state and national nursing shortage and will be transformational for the profession.

DeLuca’s gift will provide scholarships and programmatic support for a dynamic nursing education that includes patient-centered practice, interdisciplinary research, and technology-based innovations. It will also support the construction of a new state-of-the-art facility for the School of Nursing in Storrs.

The combination of private and public support will make this effort possible as Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and the General Assembly are united in UConn’s vision to address the critical nursing shortage.

The UConn Board of Trustees at its June 28, 2023, meeting approved the start of planning for the new building, which is supported by $30 million in bond authorizations approved by the General Assembly, with support of Governor Lamont, during the 2023 legislative session. Earlier today, the state bond commission voted to allocate the bond funds to the University. DeLuca’s gift provides additional funds that are critical to the project.

“Here in Connecticut, we strongly value those who enter the nursing profession, and we want to do everything we can to support them as they fulfill their necessary educational requirements,” says Lamont. “By constructing a new, state-of-the-art building for the UConn School of Nursing, we are not only creating a place that can provide nursing students with the latest tools that will serve them well throughout their careers, but we are also showing anyone who may be considering entering this selfless field just how much of a priority nursing is to our state while also taking steps necessary to combat nursing shortages. On behalf of the State of Connecticut, I thank Elisabeth DeLuca for her very generous gift and her commitment to our nursing students. Matched together with state bond funding, these funds will enable this vision to become a reality.”

“The new UConn School of Nursing building is an example of what is possible when state and philanthropic support come together. I am deeply grateful to Elisabeth DeLuca for her vision and generosity in making this transformative gift, and to Governor Ned Lamont, legislators, and the state Office of Policy and Management for their support,” UConn President Radenka Maric says. “When Elisabeth sees a need at her alma mater, she steps forward. Elisabeth supported students in need with scholarships and attended a ‘Shark Tank’-like competition at UConn. She is all about creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship for nursing students, and she wants them to interact with engineering and pharmacy students and challenge each team to come up with an innovative product or method to improve nursing and then pitch it to the audience. This gift allows the UConn School of Nursing to build on its history of educating highly skilled nurses who will lead and innovate, addressing the nursing shortage while also driving impactful change in health care.”

DeLuca, who is a former nurse, has a keen understanding of the challenges nurses face and the importance of bringing innovation to the profession, according to former UConn School of Nursing Dean Deborah Chyun.

“Elisabeth DeLuca understands nursing and the critical need for well-educated nurses,” Chyun says. “Her extraordinary gift, along with the generous support provided by the University and the State of Connecticut, will enable us to educate more nurses and nursing faculty who are so urgently needed across the state and beyond.”

DeLuca hopes that her gift inspires others to invest in nursing education. She is a longtime donor to the University, providing support that includes the DeLuca Visiting Professor for Innovation and New Knowledge Fund and the Adomat Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at the School of Nursing.

After graduating from UConn, DeLuca worked at Bridgeport Hospital and was promoted to Head Nurse of Intensive Services. She then joined her husband in running his business. She currently serves as president of the Elisabeth C. DeLuca Foundation and the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation.

A new building for the School of Nursing

The new facility will feature flexible spaces to allow for different setups for various learning modalities and lecture halls to accommodate large gatherings, and will maximize space for student learning through simulations, training, lectures, and studying.

The building’s proposed location on Alethia Drive in Storrs is ideal based on its proximity to several complementary facilities and complexes: UConn’s fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machine in the Brain Imaging Resource Center building, the Communication Sciences Building, the Wellness Community student housing in nearby West Complex, UConn Health Nayden Rehabilitation Clinic in the Human Development Center, and other sites.

The School of Nursing will continue to have a presence in Storrs Hall for at least the initial time the new building opens.

As part of the planning process, preliminary site and civil engineering investigations will be conducted, followed by the design process. Construction is anticipated to begin in fall 2024 and finish in time for the start of the 2026-27 academic year.

Addressing the nursing shortage

The United States is experiencing a significant nursing shortage, which is projected to continue through 2030. The human costs of the shortage can be deadly, and adequate staffing and college-educated nurses are strongly associated with safer patient care.

The profile of UConn’s School of Nursing continues to rise, including a continuing increase in highly-qualified applicants seeking to enroll in its degree programs — almost 2,900 in 2023, an increase of more than 300 over the prior year. The capacity to enroll more of these qualified applicants was limited by faculty, staff, and space considerations.

DeLuca’s gift sets up UConn to lead change with the necessary resources needed to hire more nursing faculty and staff and a new building will accommodate more students, allowing the School to increase enrollment from its current approximate enrollment of 175 to a minimum of 250 students. The scholarship support provided by DeLuca’s gift will ensure talented students can access a UConn education and complete their nursing degree, regardless of their economic status.

The School’s online nursing master’s program is No. 18 nationwide in the 2023 U.S. News & World Report annual rankings, and its clinical faculty garnered more than $4 million in external research funding in fiscal year 2022.

UConn’s nursing graduates also find themselves to be highly marketable in the competitive health care field, earning an average starting salary of $68,745 and finding jobs throughout the U.S., especially in Connecticut hospitals and health care systems.

Nurses who graduate from the School of Nursing will be well equipped to provide outstanding patient care and serve as collaborative leaders who will shape the future of the nursing profession.