A Legacy of Servitude
Doris Lee Hornsby Billups was one of those people for whom the word “servant” is an inadequate description. But her story of selfless service and profound impact is inspiring new generations with the establishment of an endowed scholarship in her honor. “Mom gave a significant part of her life to St. Mary’s Medical Center,” says daughter Nancy Billups Burley. “She advocated so strongly for the power of education for women during a time when most females didn’t pursue schooling beyond high school. That’s why my husband and I wanted to create an endowed scholarship as a living memorial to her.”
Indeed, the Doris Lee Hornsby Billups Endowment Scholarship is one of the newest that provides financial assistance for deserving nursing students at St. Mary’s School of Nursing. Nancy and Doug Burley believe the School continues to train nurses who carry the ideals Nancy’s mother believed in so strongly.
“Mom always said ‘there’s no nurse like a St. Mary’s nurse’… the compassion they show, their hands-on care. Mom called them ‘the bed-side nurse.”
Serving Where Needed Most
Doris Billups was the personification of a “bedside nurse” throughout a long and significant career. While she dreamed of becoming a teacher of home economics, World War II changed everything. Her father convinced Doris to answer the call to meet a critical shortage of nurses, so she signed on to the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, which was created by an act of Congress in 1943 to meet the nursing shortage. Supervised by the U.S. Public Health Service, the program provided subsidies for accelerated training programs for qualified women between the ages of 17 and 35. Doris packed her belongings and traveled three hours by Greyhound bus to train at St. Mary’s School of Nursing in Huntington to eventually ship out as a Navy nurse. But, by the time she graduated in 1947, the war had ended.
Undaunted, Doris embraced her new career with a zeal to excel — and a deep gratitude for the opportunity that her education had provided. After graduation, she was hired by a private practice physician to assist him in running an obstetrical clinic in Milton, WV. In this role, Doris did prenatal, labor/delivery, and post-partum care for local mothers and babies. She cooked and cleaned for the clinic along with administrative responsibilities. She assisted in the births of many Milton area children from 1947 to the early 1950s.
When the American polio epidemic impacted this country Doris stepped up to once again serve where she was needed. She became a nurse at Morris Memorial Hospital for Crippled Children until it closed in 1960. Doris was then hired by St. Mary’s Hospital. For 18 years Doris was the head orthopedic nurse at St. Mary’s, where, by the way, four of her five children were born. Doris was recruited by International Nickel, “The Nickel Plant,” to join a team of five experienced nurses who provided medical care to employees. Doris retired in 1986 but continued to volunteer in her community and St. Mary’s until well into her 80s.
Leaving Her Legacy
Following a stroke and subsequent full-time care, Doris passed away October 24, 2010. But her passion for nursing AND for women’s education has carried on.
Family brought Doris her greatest joy. She and her husband, Howard, had five children and six grandchildren. Doris believed in higher education especially for women and she passed this on to her two daughters, Jane and Nancy who both hold master’s degrees. All six of her grandchildren, Seth, Carlee, Jessica, Josh, Logan, and Victoria have completed college educations.
The healthcare legacy Doris left includes her three granddaughters. Dr. Carlee Clark is an anesthesiologist, Jessica Burley-Oberle is a veteran who served in the United States Public Health Service, like her MawMaw Doris, and is completing her graduate degree in counseling. Victoria Billups Bock graduated from St. Mary’s School of Nursing in 2021, and a great-granddaughter, Ashley Clark, just entered St. Mary’s School of Nursing!
Nancy Burley is proud of her mother’s long career and the changes she embraced along the way. “Mom was old school…a real traditionalist. She didn’t like the changes in uniforms – discontinuing the caps, wearing slacks or the advent of male nurses. However, she learned to change…she wore uniform pants and packed away her nurse’s cap. More importantly, she even became a champion for male nurses — especially those who like, Paul Lageman, RN, provided her with the highest level of medical care when she was a patient at St. Mary’s Medical Center.”
Doris taught her sons, Danny, Bobby and Timmy the importance of being “compassionate caregivers” as they, along with daughters Jane and Nancy, provided 24/7 in-home, post-stroke care for their mother for 13 months prior to Doris’s death.
“My mom – Doris Billups – was a champion for women’s higher education, for quality in nursing, and for the young women and men pursuing nursing careers at St. Mary’s School of Nursing. We hope this endowed scholarship will inspire others to pay it forward and help other deserving nursing students.”
Affecting Generations to Come
Kristi Arrowood, Director of the St. Mary’s Medical Center and Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundations expressed her gratitude to the Burleys for their generous contribution that endowed the Doris Lee Hornsby Billups Nursing Scholarship. “Nancy and Doug’s decision to honor her mother’s legacy in this way is a testament to the impact Doris made in so many lives. Their commitment to helping train young nurses will extend that impact for generations to come. Thank you, Nancy and Doug, for your commitment to St. Mary’s School of Nursing!”
For more information how you might endow nursing scholarships, please contact Kristi Arrowood at Kristi.Arrowood@chhi.org or 304.526.2009. Or visit Giving – Mountain Health Network Foundations (mountainhealthfoundations.org).
To learn more about St. Mary’s School of Nursing visit School of Nursing – St. Mary’s Medical Center (st-marys.org).