Eastern Kentucky University Alumnus Dr. Bill Hays and his family established the Edith Chaney Hays Memorial Endowed Scholarship in memory of their mother to support students pursuing a career in the nursing profession.
“I am hoping that the scholarship will last into perpetuity and let students graduate from Eastern’s nursing program,” Dr. Hays said. “Although there is not a requirement, we hope that students will practice in eastern Kentucky, in the 20 some odd counties in the service area.”
Dr. Hays completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at EKU before teaching at a community college in eastern Kentucky for three years. He then earned his doctorate from the University of Mississippi and taught at Delta State University for 35 years.
Remembering his mother Dr. Hays said, “She was a very kind and humanitarian person, and she was always reaching out to help people in any way she could.”
Born in Magoffin County, Edith spent most of her life in Breathitt and Perry counties. An avid reader from a young age, she would always check out the maximum number of books allowed from her school’s library. Edith attended Breathitt County High School, where she walked six miles round trip, sometimes in bitter cold winters, just to attend school. After graduating from high school, she began nurse’s training at the hospital in Hazard, Kentucky, where she attended formal classes and immediately began practicing in clinical settings. At age 17, she was already working in surgery. Edith left full-time professional nursing in 1948 when she married Nolan Hays.
“Although my mother did not practice for very long, she used her nursing skills all her life,” Dr. Hays stated. Edith often helped her friends, neighbors, and family with everything from taking temperatures and giving shots to bandaging wounds and removing stitches. Once, she saved her brother’s life by administering first aid to treat peritonitis before he had an emergency appendectomy.
In addition to being a nurse, she served her church and community in many ways. She was a Cub Scout den mother, a Sunday school teacher, and the youth director at the Methodist church in Hazard. She passed away in December 2015 at the age of 88.
“The story of Edith Chaney Hays is one of an amazing woman, and her legacy of helping others lives on with the establishment of this scholarship in her name,” said Colleen Schneck, interim dean of EKU’s College of Health Sciences. “The Edith Chaney Hays Memorial Endowed Scholarship will greatly assist students in accomplishing their dreams of becoming a nurse, and beyond graduation, the recipients will make a significant impact on the communities that they serve.”
“She would be pleased to know that this scholarship was established by family members in her honor to assist others to become nurses and enter the profession she loved,” said Dr. Hays.