In March 2005, a Clark College news release titled "The Gift of a Lifetime", announced that Hilma Speights, who passed away in November 2004, provided a gift of $4.1 million to Clark College for nursing education. The estate gift was made through the Clark College Foundation.
Through her involvement with the Mature Learning Program Hilma became aware that Clark could not offer an education to all the students interested in the Nursing Program. Hilma was not a nurse and was not involved in the Clark College Nursing Program but she was aware of the shortage of nurses and that applicants to Clark Nursing Program were being turned away.
Hilma was an only child, reared on a farm in the Battle Ground area. After graduating from Battle Ground High School, she spent most her career at Alcoa, retiring 4 decades later when operations closed. The widow of a World War II veteran, she was involved with the American Legion and helped honor local veterans during Memorial Day commemorations. She supported the local arts and the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum in Skamania County. Hilma played the washtub and her husband played the harmonica and banjo with the Ray Matta Band. She took classes and was a volunteer in Clark College's Mature Learning Program.
The College created an advisory panel that included professional nurses and nursing administrators, Clark nursing educators, Washington State University (WSUV) nursing educators, and other educators and health care professionals from across the nation, to provide guidance for the use of the gift. Panel recommendations focused on program expansion, student retention and critical faculty requirement needs. A Speights Advisory Committee (Clark College and WSU-V faculty members) continues to review and administer the funds, judicially preserving the endowment in order that it can continue to provide future funding to nursing education.
"Hilma Speights' generous gift is being put to use every day in the Clark College Nursing Program. The nursing faculty learns how to be better instructors by utilizing professional development funds provided by Hilma's gift. The students practice nursing care using equipment purchased by the endowment. And the Hilma Speights Center for Nursing Student Success is a central part of our program, through which students receive tutoring and other assistance to enable them to complete their RN education.
"We are grateful beyond measure for this wonderful gift" - Professor Nancy Sheppard, MS, RN, FNP and 2008-2009 Speights Advisory Committee Chair.