Mary NeffPaving the way for future nurses

By Sarah Schwartz

“After what I had just seen and ex­perienced, I knew I had to become a nurse”, said Mary Neff, BSN ‘97, as she thought back to the very moment she knew she had found her calling.

Neff began her career as a lab technician at MUSC, helping to run and analyze tests and samples or­dered by health care providers.

As a lab tech, Neff worked in a space with large glass windows which allowed her to see across the floor and into a few hospital rooms. Since she was in close proximity to patient rooms she could hear and see nurses and physicians racing about the floor when emergencies arose. One day, a patient close to her lab coded. Though she could not see the patient, she saw the team rushing to respond. After witnessing the patient code and the nurses and physicians jump into action, Neff knew that nurs­ing would become her calling.

“Nursing has afforded me a joyful and fulfilling lifestyle,” Neff said. “As a nurse, you get to be the voice of compassion and understanding for patients and their families. For some, you become a part of their family.”

Neff is still in contact with a few of her patients even years after they have left the hospital. One patient, in particular, was a young marine involved in a car accident. He was badly injured and was rushed to the MUSC Medical Center one evening while Neff was on duty.

Fifteen years later their paths would cross again nearly 650 miles from their first encounter in the emer­gency room. While in Pennsylvania to attend a Pittsburgh Steelers game, Neff was able to reconnect with the marine and his family. “You meet so many different people from all walks of life, and some become lifelong friends.”

Neff’s career in nursing has not only allowed her to connect with patients and their families but also has allowed her to connect with her community. Through nursing, Neff has volunteered on medical teams for community races and American Red Cross events. She also has traveled to several music festivals as a volun­teer nurse.

After graduation from nursing school (Neff also holds a biology degree from College of Charleston), Neff traveled extensively and worked as a nurse in many different units - her fa­vorites being the PACU and ICU - but she always remained connected to the MUSC College of Nursing through its publications and giving opportu­nities.

“I got to the point where I could give back, so I did,” shared Neff, “I would encourage others to do the same - it doesn’t have to be a lot.” Neff began giving to the college’s annual fund upon graduation, but in 2018 she decided she wanted to do more.

Neff contacted the college to share her desire to make a differ­ence for future generations of nurses through a bequest. After meeting with Linda Weglicki, PhD, RN, dean of the College of Nursing; Anahita Modaresi, director of development; and Sarah Schwartz, development associate, Neff made the decision to establish an endowed scholarship in the college’s global health initiatives program.

An avid traveler, Neff felt her gift was a perfect fit as it achieved her philanthropic goal of providing financial assistance to students who share her love of adventure. Through the college’s global health initiative, students will be afforded the oppor­tunity to travel on faculty-led trips to global research sites where they help provide care and services in areas where healthcare access is scarce.

“The College of Nursing is very thankful to donors like May Neff, one of our many outstanding alumni, who see the value in supporting our programs, such as our global health initiative,” Dean Weglicki said. “In addition to helping build healthy com­munities through our global partners, this type of support provides unique opportunities that our students might otherwise never have – in which they learn to provide care and services in very vulnerable populations and in some of the hardest places to live. The experiences, where students learn to authentically provide care in these difficult environments, will be carried with them through the rest of their nursing careers.”

Natalie Coxe, gift administrator in the Office of Planned Giving, helped Neff navigate the planned giving pro­cess to ensure her gift was handled with care. Coxe explained that choos­ing to leave a gift in your estate plans to the college is an incredible way to make an impact and leave a legacy. A planned gift is non-binding and can be altered at any time.

“Mary’s bequest provides the per­fect opportunity for her to fulfill both passions of supporting the College of Nursing and traveling the globe as it does not affect her current cash flow,” Coxe said. “She can make a gift now that will benefit the college for years to come.”

Neff’s motivation for giving back? Gratitude. “I just have to say thank you,” she shared. “I would not have the life I have if it were not for my nursing education. All the places I have traveled and the people I have met, it can all be traced back to nursing.”

If you are interested in paying it forward through leaving a gift or learn more about other gifts that may appeal to you, please contact the Office of Planned Giving at 843-792-9562 or visit