Sam Whichard had a successful career in the banking industry. Retirement came along, and his first thought was to give back to the industry he has been a part of for so many years.
But when his wife died of cancer, his heart led him down another path.
“After she died, what I wanted to do before, I didn’t feel it was relevant,” he said.
Instead, Whichard established the Martha Elizabeth Whichard Endowed Chair of Nursing at the William Carey University Tradition campus in Biloxi. He did it in honor of his wife, he said, because of her commitment to education.
Martha Whichard was a speech pathologist, substitute teacher, volunteer and mentor in the Stone County School District.
She was particularly adept at communicating with kids with special needs. The children were drawn to her like a magnet, Sam Whichard said.
“Everywhere she went, she made a gigantic contribution,” he said.
Another factor weighed heavy on the endowment decision, Whichard said.
Sam has Stage 4 cancer now. He said he felt obligated to give back to the nurses who took care of his wife and now help take care of him.
Sam and Martha were married for 41 years.
“The level of care and concern we’ve gotten from the nurses has been amazing,” he said. “They’ve had a huge impact on me and my wife. I think that this is a good way to say thanks and to give back, to see something grow here in my hometown.”
The university is working with other schools, institutes and hospitals to develop an area just east of the Tradition campus into a “medical city.”
The endowment will pay for the salary of the nursing chair years down the road. That will free up funding in other areas, William Carey chief advancement officer Monica Marlowe said.
“Martha’s legacy of service to others will be remembered each year as students pursue their dream of a career in nursing,” Marlowe said. “We are honored to have this prestigious position named in Martha’s memory.”
Whichard said when he returned back to his native Gulfport, he would drive by the Tradition campus and take note of new things taking shape.
“I’m just impressed that they’re beginning to build the infrastructure here in my hometown,” he said. “It’s similar to some of the other bigger towns and universities, like the Dukes and the North Carolinas. I always wished we had that, infrastructure to compete with the larger universities.
“When I was growing up, it just didn’t exist. Mississippi obviously needs to work on its education footprint. But the Coast area is going in the right direction. It’s an exciting thing.”