Jonas Center Celebrates 5th Anniversary With Expansion of Scholarship Program

Christie’s honors Jonas Center’s five years of leadership; stage is set for future growth

New York, NY – What links Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Isamu Noguchi with Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton and Dorothea Dix? Barbara and Donald Jonas, who sold their treasured art pieces to ensure a future for nurses.

Mr. & Mrs. Jonas

On Tuesday, April 12, 2011, at Christie’s, the site where it all began, the couple marked the fifth anniversary of the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence by announcing the expansion of its foresighted and acclaimed Jonas Nurse Leaders Scholars program and launching its inaugural development campaign. Of the additional 100 nurse doctoral scholarships to be funded nationwide by 2012, at least 25 will go to members of the military who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. This will bring the total number of Jonas Scholars to 150 and help resolve the dire shortage of nursingfaculty that impedes the education of the nextgeneration of nurses and adversely affects patient care.

The “Circle of Support” campaign will educate and engage new donors about opportunities to join with the Jonas Center in championing the nursing profession, whom the Jonases have called “the unsung heroes of healthcare.”

The announcements are the latest in a series of far-reaching moves by the Jonas Center to advance the nation’s nurses – the largest, yet most overlooked segment of the healthcare workforce – primarily through educational and leadership development and giving nurses a stronger voice in health policy discussions. They build on the considerable work done to identify and act strategically on areas with the most long-term promise for the profession and the future of healthcare.

“We began this journey because we had been stunned to learn that nurses, in whose hands we all place our trust and care at some point in our lives, had few advocates in the philanthropic, business or legislative communities,” said Donald Jonas, a former retailing executive and the Center’s co-founder with Barbara Jonas, his wife. “Words can’t describe how proud we are of our grantees and partners, and especially our Jonas Scholars, as together, in just a few years, we have shifted the landscape for nursing.”

Art Inspires Philanthropy to Support the Art and Science of Nursing

The Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence grew from Barbara and Donald Jonas’ interest in deepening their existing philanthropy to become involved with a field that was   underserved but held considerable potential for social impact. In 2005 the couple worked with Christie’s and the Jewish Communal Fund to auction a portion of their noted collection of postwar artworks. The sale yielded $44.2 million, with which they created the Barbara and Donald Jonas Family Fund.

Research with a number of experts, including Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, helped the Jonases settle on nursing – even though no one in the family had ties to the profession – and they launched a first-of-its kind nursing-specific philanthropic entity. It quickly became clear that the greatest need was in the area of nursing faculty, which is experiencing a severe and growing shortage.

“Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare system, but they are underappreciated by the public and the philanthropic community,” said Barbara Jonas. “We have a responsibility as a society to support nurses and provide the tools and education so they can continue in their vital roles at the height of their potential and capabilities. Essentially, we need to care for them so they will continue to care for us.”

The Jonas Center expanded its advocacy and influence quickly by acting as a convener of high-level, cross-sector discussions on nursing.

Focused Approach on Nursing Scholarship Solidified Leadership Role

While much discussion about the nation’s nursing crisis focuses on clinical practice, it is faculty development – particularly at the doctoral level – that is critical to ensure appropriate education and training for the next generation of nurses.

Nationwide there are roughly 900 faculty vacancies among schools with baccalaureate programs, which forced them to turn away roughly 54,000 qualified applicants in 2010 alone. The faculty vacancy rate is expected to climb in the next 15 years as current educators retire.

“The precise scope of the nursing faculty shortage is not calculable, given the wide range of nursing practice areas and varying state workforce regulations, but we know the cumulative impact of the unfilled slots will be calamitous just when an aging American population is most in need of care,” said Darlene Curley, MS, RN, Executive Director of the Jonas Center.

Begun with just six scholars in 2008 – well ahead of a 2010 Institute of Medicine/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report that specifically cited the faculty shortage as requiring immediate attention – the Jonas Scholars program now has students at nearly two dozen of the nation’s leading academic institutions. The program is also supported by the John A. Hartford Foundation and the National League for Nursing.

For the 25 scholarships designated for veterans, medical experience gained while in the military will enable the veterans to earn degrees on an accelerated timetable.

“Veterans with emergency medical experience have a strong foundation of health knowledge and the skills needed to be excellent nurses and educators,” said Curley. “Each educator trains thousands of nurses over a career so each slot we fill will have considerable patient impact. But we’re especially excited that this new element of the program allows us to be of service to those who have served our country.”

A Time for Bold Action

The model the Jonases established – grantmaking paired with advocacy and convening – has already attracted other funders. But the issues challenging the nursing profession are deeply entrenched and the couple called on the audience to join them as they move ahead.

“We’ve created a national presence and our Scholars will be in all 50 states. Though naming a minimum of 100 more doctoral nursing students by the end of next year will be daunting, this is a big deal for all of us in the room,” said Donald Jonas. “We need more of them – at the doctoral and master’s level, in all specialties, in all practice areas, and from all backgrounds. But it will take a commitment from the broader philanthropy, business and policy communities to make it happen.”

The Jonas Center’s new “Circle of Support” campaign will help increase the funds available for various targeted nursing-related issues and thus, help it advance its goals more broadly and swiftly. The couple also hopes that they are joined by supporters from all fields to rally behind nurses.

“Improving the future of nursing is perhaps the single most powerful thing we can do to affect healthcare nationally – and permanently,” said Barbara. “This initiative had its genesis in some of the art world’s greatest talent. It somehow seems appropriate that the Jonas Center’s work is fostering extraordinary talent, knowledge and skill in the art of healing.”


About the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence

Founded in February of 2006, the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence ( supported by the Barbara and Donald Jonas Family Fund. Its mission is to advance professional nursing through grant-making and programs that improve nurse recruitment and retention; increase ethnic diversity among the nursing workforce; promote innovative practice models; and improve practice settings in New York City and beyond.