Nursing scholarship established at UNCP


A Murphy, N.C., woman has connected three of the great interests of her life to an endowed scholarship at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

A nurse for 50 years, Joan H. Wallace endowed a nursing scholarship at UNCP to honor the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and her Native American heritage.

 Joan Wallace

From left: University Librarian Dr. Elinor Foster, Dr. Peggy Opitz retired nursing chair, donor Joan Wallace, nursing Prof. Cherry Beasley and Dr. Margaret Synowiez, nursing chair.

“I chose Pembroke because I believe state-recognized tribes need more help,” Wallace said. “I’ve read a lot about the Lumbee, and if I was younger, I would go to Washington to do battle for (federal recognition).”

“I feel very strongly about this issue,” said Wallace, who is part Narragansett Indian. “It was not socially acceptable to be Indian when I was growing up in New England, and my family never discussed it.”

Wallace invested considerable time discovering her native roots and educating others through her work with the DAR. She is the North Carolina chair of DAR’s American Indian Committee and was vice chair of the national committee in 2000.

“I do school and other programs for local chapters,” Wallace said. “My role in DAR is to teach other members about the role of Native Americans in American history.”

The honorariums she receives for speaking are added to the $5,000 scholarship that she established in July 2004. The scholarship has appreciated nearly 20 percent in just six months.

On March 17, Wallace and her husband Tom met with UNCP representatives to discuss the scholarship, which will be awarded for the first time this spring. Some of the UNCP representatives are old friends.
Dr. Peggy Opitz, who retired in March as Nursing Department chair, is vice regent of the Col. Thomas Robeson Chapter of DAR. University Librarian Dr. Elinor Foster is public relations chair for the chapter. Representing the Nursing Department were interim Chair Barbara Synowiez and Associate Professor Cherry Beasley.

Wallace has embraced UNCP’s nursing program and the entire community, Beasley said.

“In her first visit here, she toured the campus, talked with students and served as the keynote speaker for the annual nurse lectureship, all in full traditional regalia,” she said. “American Indians are underrepresented in nursing, as are other minorities, and one of the goals of the Nursing Department is to address this disparity issue. Ms. Wallace’s gift is a major contribution towards accomplishing this goal, and we thank her for it.”

The Joan H. Wallace North Carolina Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution American Indian Committee Endowed Nursing Scholarship will provide financial assistance to an American Indian nursing student with demonstrated financial need. The recipient will be accepted into the UNCP’s undergraduate nursing program and demonstrates ability and promise in the profession.

DAR’s American Indians Committee was established in Washington, D.C. in 1941 to educate members and school children about Native American culture and to provide funds for the education of American Indian students.

For information about contributing to this or other scholarships at UNCP, please contact the Office for Advancement at 910.521.6252 or email