Ziegler Gifts Inspired by Family's Experiences With Student Nurses

December 18, 2015

Joe Ziegler
Joe Ziegler

When Ann Marie Ziegler's husband, Joe, became disabled in a bicycle accident in 2008, the couple found themselves surrounded by new health-care challenges. Thanks to the excellent medical care from three University of Arkansas nursing students, Joe – a faculty member and chair of the Department of Economics – and his wife received the support they needed at their home until he passed away in 2013.

A former U of A faculty member herself, Ziegler felt inspired by the care her husband received and is now honoring the three former students – two of whom still live and work in Northwest Arkansas – with scholarships created in their names. The Theresa Rickert Endowed Nursing Scholarship, Meredith Warner Endowed Nursing Scholarship and Kristen Coleman Endowed Nursing Scholarship have all been established in the College of Education and Health Professions with gifts of $80,000 to each.

"We are very grateful to Mrs. Ziegler for honoring our nursing program in this way," said Tom Smith, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions. "Endowing scholarships in the names of our nursing graduates will inspire our future students and shows the tremendous impact they will have on the people they care for."

"Scholarships help students achieve their desire to become registered nurses at a time when the region needs baccalaureate-prepared nurses," said Julie Hoff, director of the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing. "We thank our donors for their generosity and for recognizing the need for scholarships in nursing education."

Theresa Rickert, originally from Dallas, was in her first year of nursing school at the U of A when she met the Zieglers. She provided assistance on the weekends and ended up working with the family for two years. She now works as a registered nurse for Mercy Medical Center in Rogers. The scholarship named in her honor will be awarded to students who are enrolled in the nursing program and demonstrate financial need.

"I was very shocked to find out about the scholarship," Rickert said. "It was unexpected, although I know how much the Zieglers have always loved the university. I guess you never realize how much a family appreciates your care until afterwards."

Meredith Warner, originally from Houston, took over for Rickert after two years and worked with Ziegler for a year, taking him to physical therapy and assisting with his bedtime routine weekly. Warner now works as a registered nurse in administration in a clinic in Austin. She has applied to the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at the University of Arkansas.

The scholarship named on her behalf will be awarded to nursing students with a minimum grade point average of 3.5 and demonstrated financial need.

"I remember the Zieglers as being very wonderful, welcoming people," said Warner, who recalls crying when she learned a scholarship was being named in her honor. "I learned a lot about life from Joe Ziegler."

Kristen Coleman, originally from Plano, moved to Arkansas in 2009 with her two children and enrolled in the university's nursing program in 2011. Coleman loved working with the Zieglers and said they became extended family to her. The scholarship named in her honor will be awarded to a nursing student who has one or more dependent children and demonstrated financial need.

"When you're in someone's home, you become very close," said Coleman, who now works as a registered nurse at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville. "I knew Ann Marie wanted to do something, but I was surprised when I learned about the scholarship. I'm very honored. I feel like I was meaningful to them – just as they were to me."

In addition to the three scholarships, Ann Marie Ziegler has also designated $10,000 to be used toward the Dr. Joseph A. Ziegler Experimental Economics Excellence Fund in the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

Bill Curington, chair of the Department of Economics, said, "Joe – or 'Z' to his friends – initiated the hiring of the first experimental economist in the department more than 20 years ago. It was a relatively new field in economics, but he seemed to anticipate the department's future. In order to conduct controlled laboratory economics experiments, researchers need to be able to provide salient incentives, typically in the form of cash payments, to motivate the choices of study participants. This fund will be an essential vehicle for supporting experimental economics research and will serve as an enduring honor to Joe's legacy in the department."

Experimental economics is a major strength of the Department of Economics. Five of the department's 15 tenure-track faculty members now have this specialization, which has created a cluster that is among the largest and most active anywhere in the world.

"Joe believed in experimental economics," said Ann Marie Ziegler. "It shows students that what they're learning in the classroom is happening in the real world."

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