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Thelma Steward

Scholarship Gift Honors a Caring Mom and Nurse

Hopefully, this gift can open doors and create a pathway for people to pursue a career in nursing so we have more diverse nurses in more places.

David Steward II

Thelma Steward began her career as a registered nurse in Homer G. Phillips Hospital’s newborn and premature nursery. David Steward II established a nursing scholarship to recognize his mom, Thelma Steward, and to open doors of opportunity for African American students.

You’re never too old to appreciate the special care that only a mom can give. Last summer, when David Steward II broke his ankle, the Academy Award-winning producer and owner of multiple entertainment businesses leaned heavily on his mother for care. That’s because this super mom came with an additional toolkit—she’s a retired nurse. 

"As a child, I saw my mom's commitment to caring for others as a nurse," David says. "I have a real understanding of how much nurses do in the medical profession. They do most of the heavy lifting. Growing up with a nurse, whenever I had a cough or felt sick, I always had a medical professional on hand. Today, she's the first one I call when I have a sick child. She's my first line of defense."

Because of his admiration for nurses and to honor and thank his mom for a lifetime of TLC, David surprised his mom with a creative Christmas gift last year that can't be found on any store shelves or delivered by Amazon. In his mom’s name, he established the Thelma Steward Future Nurse of Excellence Scholarship at the Foundation for nursing students at Barnes-Jewish College Goldfarb School of Nursing. 

“She was floored,” David says. “You know you gave a good gift when you get tears.”

Opening More Doors to Diversity

David's gift provides a full-tuition scholarship to an African American student each year because he is a strong advocate for both nurses and diversity. "Diversity is important in all things, and it's helpful to have people from various backgrounds in the medical field who understand cultural nuances about how to deliver care as they relate to different populations," David says.

He also hopes to attract more nurses to the field to address the critical demand in health care. "Hopefully, this gift can open doors and create a pathway for people to pursue a career in nursing so we have more diverse nurses in more places," he says. "Barnes-Jewish College is a center of excellence in the area and offers several pathways for all students, including the Accelerated program and the Weekend and Evenings Option program."

As a successful entrepreneur, David has founded multiple companies that offer an array of content offerings, including animated television and gaming. His experience has given him expert perspective on virtual reality. That's why David was so impressed with the College's simulation lab and virtual reality training for nurses.

"Virtual reality allows you to do a lot without the limitations of a facility or physical resources," he says. "Through simulation, you can create any kind of scenario to train nurses better. I think virtual reality can even be used as a recruitment tool to give people a taste of the nursing experience."

Generosity Fuels Dreams

Kayla Washington is the first scholarship student to receive the Thelma Steward Future Nurse of Excellence Scholarship at Barnes-Jewish College Goldfarb School of Nursing.

"Through the scholarship, I want to enable more African American students to have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, goals, and passions," he says.

David's generosity is rooted in generations of kindness. "Growing up, we had financial struggles, but no matter what position we were at in life, my parents were always giving to others, helping someone at church, or supporting family members. My dad (David Steward, founder and chairman of World Wide Technology, a global technology solutions provider) grew up on a farm near Clinton, Missouri, with seven siblings. They lived near train tracks, and the people who rode those freight trains were always looking for meals. My grandparents always fed them, even though my grandfather worked several jobs to support his own family. They were always giving to others. That's instilled in us — it's about what our ultimate purpose is here."

Written by Joyce Romine
Photos courtesy of the Steward Family


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