Heideman’s legacy honors nurses
Endowed scholarship fund created
Published: April 09, 2014 by Bryant Boutwell, DrPH
While Carol Heideman lost her battle with pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center on October 2, 2013, her spirit lives on. A research biochemist at Baylor College of Medicine, mother of two, and active in her church and community, Carol was a woman who got things done and inspired others along the way. After her children were grown and gone from home, she taught Pilates, a form of body conditioning and flexibility exercise, and that too is important to her story.
Her husband of 39 years, John Heideman, a retired engineer and consultant who worked more than three decades for Exxon, recalls with great admiration Carol’s tireless efforts to improve the neighborhood -- planting trees in esplanades, making improvements to Karl Young Park, initiating a recycling program, and serving on the board of the Stella Link Redevelopment Association.
Says John with more than a bit of pride, “Drive down Stella Link between Bellaire and North Braeswood and enjoy the double row of live oaks that were among nearly 300 trees Carol and a small group of recruits planted 26 years ago and nurtured, with support from the Braeswood Place Homeowners Association.”
In 2013, as a patient at MD Anderson, Carol continued to display her winning spirit and determination. Despite several surgeries and regimens of chemotherapy, she continued to invest in her community—now, her new community comprised of caregivers. Time after time, recalls John, she would ask the most skillful and attentive of her nurses where they trained and the answer was almost always the UTHealth School of Nursing. She was more than a little impressed and, once again, Carol had an idea and a plan for carrying it out.
If planting trees and improving the neighborhood could yield long-term benefits, why not start an endowed scholarship fund for nursing students and watch it grow for the benefit of others? At this point the Pilates teaching in her background came into play. One of her clients and close friends was Peggy Barnett, a member of the UTHealth Development Board and founding chairman in 1994 of PARTNERS, the community support organization for the UTHealth School of Nursing, which was where Carol’s nurses trained. The more Carol learned about UTHealth, our nursing school, and the needs of incoming nursing students, the more determined she was to make a difference there, too. Establishing an endowment was also a way to honor her parents Rupert Stackhouse Lewis and Ruth Adams Lewis.
“Carol asked me to take money she had inherited from her uncle Max Patterson Lewis of Virginia and start a scholarship program for nursing students at UTHealth”, John recalls. Within four months—on Valentine’s Day 2014—John made good on her request when he signed into being the Carol Lewis Heideman Endowed Scholarship for incoming first-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students with financial needs. Not unlike the oak trees she planted, Carol’s scholarship program will grow in the years ahead, educating more UTHealth nurse caregivers of the caliber Carol came to know and appreciate.
One of those UT School of Nursing alumni who especially impressed Carol in her final months was Megan Spitzmueller (BSN Class of 2009). “I knew her only for a brief time, but I won’t forget her beautiful spirit, smile, courage, and strength. People always thank us for what we do, but I feel I should be thanking the patients and their families for what they do for me. I’ve grown so much personally, spiritually, and professionally all because of people like Carol that I’ve had the honor of caring for. It is good to know that we are able to touch others’ lives as much as they touch ours.”
Future nurse graduates will never know Carol, but they will be touched by her spirit of giving. And Carol, through them, will continue to make the world a better place as the young men and women supported by her scholarship give back through their own clinical knowledge, skills, and compassion. It’s exactly what Carol had in mind.
Adds Patricia L. Starck, PhD, RN, FAAN, UTHealth School of Nursing’s dean: “This is a wonderful gift, and I’m telling the new students at orientation from now on that their competent and compassionate care can result in gifts like this—they are branded as ‘UT’ and must always uphold that image.”