When Pauline Wagnon’s mother, Virginia Thompson, was diagnosed with cancer in the mid-1940s and treated for free and cured at UAMS, Wagnon set her mind to paying it forward.
Wagnon passed away September at age 89, but left behind a $185,268 life insurance gift to UAMS that not even her family knew about.
Her family gathered in her honor Dec. 22 2013 as her stepson, Nick Wagnon, and stepdaughter, Tommie Stockley, presented the gift to Lance Burchett, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and Tim Dockery, director of planned giving.
“She always made an effort to find some kindness for the less fortunate and in turn she never failed to show appreciation when an act of kindness was bestowed upon her,” said Nick Wagnon. “This is the reason we are here today. Despite her family not having the financial ability to pay for medical services, UAMS accepted Pauline’s mother as a patient and provided her the best care possible.”
Burchett presented the family with the Society of the Double Helix Award, which is presented to individuals, foundations, corporations and organizations that contribute more than $100,000.
“This story about the matriarch we are celebrating here today is incomparable in my quarter of a century of work in higher education,” Burchett said. “It truly is an honor to gather this group here today – the members of the family and members of UAMS staff that have played a role in this extraordinary gift.”
Several members of Wagnon’s family spoke about her kindness, generosity and frugality. Jami Ellis, director of supply chain logistics at UAMS and the granddaughter of Wagnon, said she is humbled by her grandmother’s gift.
“She has showed us such an example of how we all need to think about what we do can to give back,” Ellis said. “UAMS is a wonderful place to work, and it has provided a lot of opportunity for me. It is a pleasure to work at a place that strives to give the best possible care to our patients and does so much to better the health of our state with accessible health care and research. My grandmother’s gift to UAMS will help us to continue the great work we do here. It’s wonderful to be a part of it.”