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COLUMBUS, Miss. -- A nursing scholarship being established at Mississippi University for Women will honor the lives and memories of two nuns known for their ministries of caring for the poor.

Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, both of whom worked at the Lexington (Miss.) Medical Clinic, were tragically killed Aug. 25. Both were graduates of The W’s nursing program. Sister Held earned a master’s degree in 1994 and served for many years as a preceptor for The W’s family nurse practitioner students. Sister Paula Merrill received her bachelor of science in nursing degree from The W in 1988 and her master’s from the University of Alabama at Huntsville in 1996. They continued to be involved with The W’s nursing program throughout their lives.

Sister Held was a part of the School Sisters of St. Francis and Sister Merrill of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. They had devoted more than 30 years to the mission of serving the economically poor, much of it in Mississippi.

“So many of our students have been touched by the selfless giving of Sister Margaret and Sister Paula to those in need,” said Dr. Sheila Adams, dean of the College of Nursing and Speech-Language Pathology. “They will be greatly missed by all of us, especially those they ministered to on a daily basis. This is a tragic loss, and we hope this scholarship will honor the spirit of their lives.”

To be called the Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill Graduate Nursing Scholarship, the award will be presented to a graduate nursing student who works in an underserviced or needy area or who is active in charitable or community service work.

Sister Held, 68 at the time of her death, was a Wisconsin native who graduated from Alverno College and taught before turning to social work and nursing. She served as a social worker in Holly Springs, and, before earning her master’s at The W, received her bachelor of science degree in nursing from Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. She first worked as a home health nurse and later for the Department of Health in Tupelo. Her final ministry was the Lexington clinic.

Sister Merrill, also 68 at the time of her death, was a Massachusetts native who had served as a registered nurse in Kentucky before moving to Mississippi in 1981. She initially served as a staff nurse and program director for Cadet Health Services, but from 1985 until her death she devoted herself to healthcare at health departments and clinics in the state, most recently at the Lexington clinic.

Johnnie Sue Wijewardane, head of graduate nursing at The W, said that both Sister Held and Sister Merrill had touched many W students, past and present. “As preceptors for our students, they demonstrated professionalism and caring through serving the poorest of the poor. They embodied what it means to be nurses and nurse practitioners. Through this scholarship I hope we can ensure that we always remember and honor their examples of charity and love of humanity.”

Gifts to the Held-Merrill Scholarship Fund may be made to the MUW Foundation, 1100 College Street, W-1618, Columbus, Miss. 39701. For more information, call 662-329-7148.

Sept. 1, 2016
Contact: Maridith Geuder
(662) 329-1976
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