An Unexpected Friendship: The John and Jeanie Ferguson Scholarship in Memory of Mary Ferguson, RN

Park University nursing students

Park University nursing students

Behind every scholarship is a story. For Jeanie and John Ferguson, the decision to establish a new nursing scholarship at Park University was a culmination of life experiences-and an unexpected friendship along the way.

Growing up, Jeanie wasn't encouraged to pursue a college education. "Back then, I was expected to wait for ‘Mr. Right,' have kids, cook, clean and that was that," she says. But she decided to turn things around, and at age 40, Jeanie divorced and, as a full-time working mother, began a seven-year pursuit to earn a bachelor of business administration degree. In 1987, Jeanie graduated from Park; a year later, she married John Ferguson.

"I always wanted to go to college, but my former husband didn't allow it. He said women didn't need a college education. (Jeanie said he later changed his tune when he realized the difference it made in her career.) Fortunately, John was very supportive. I'm glad he pushed me when I was tired. It wasn't easy to go to work, go to class, study and go back to work. But I'm glad I did it," she says.

Working at Farmland Industries, Jeanie took advantage of the company's college assistance program. "My Park education opened a whole new world for me," she says. "Beyond my business classes, I discovered I enjoyed literature and so much more."

Jeanie is now retired after a 30-year career in accounting at Farmland. John retired after 40 years at Midland Lithograph. "We worked hard all our lives to set ourselves up for retirement, and we also recently received a malpractice settlement. To make good use of our money, we started looking for ways to invest in the future and what mattered most to us," she says.

It was a renewed concern about health care, the nursing profession-and a special friendship-that guided Jeanie back to Park University.

Mary Ferguson, a devoted nurse at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, was John Ferguson's former spouse, and over time, became Jeanie's friend.

"It was unusual for Mary and I to become friends. But I've learned life's too short for pettiness," Jeanie says. The two women grew closer through Mary's battle with cancer. "My relationship with Mary opened my eyes to the importance of quality nursing and health care. And as I read more about the nursing shortage and the need for more nursing education, I wanted to honor Mary's memory by helping future nurses who would become as devoted to nursing as Mary had been."

Deciding where to establish the scholarship was clear. "I'm a proud Park graduate and my daughter, Vicky Rhodes '85, also earned a bachelor of business administration degree from Park," she says.

But it wasn't until Jeanie got in touch with the university that she learned about the recent expansion of the Ellen Finley Earhart Department of Nursing at Park. "I attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony last spring and was very impressed to see all that Park is doing to prepare future nurses," she says.

The John and Jeanie Ferguson Nursing Scholarship Fund in Memory of Mary Ferguson, RN will help future Park nursing students demonstrating economic need. "I can relate to the challenges students face today, but I personally know the potential education has to improve their lives," Jeanie says. "Investing in nursing education has the power to improve all of our lives."

Improve the Lives of Park Students With a Future Gift

Like the Fergusons, you can honor someone special in your life through an estate gift to Park University. Contact Nathan Marticke at or (816) 584-6844 to learn about your options.