Last year, Doug Cecil drove his mother, Bettye, from Spartanburg to Clemson to look at renovation plans for the Clemson University School of Nursing’s simulation lab.
On the drive home, after reviewing the blueprints and touring the second floor of Edwards Hall, he asked his mother if she was happy with the plans.
“She said she was really pleased,” Doug said. “‘I think they’ve got it all taken care of,’ she had said.”
And that was the last he heard about the space until spring semester before the dedication ceremony for the Bettye C. Cecil Clinical Learning and Research Center on Nov. 9, to honor her legacy at Clemson.
But what her family didn’t know was all she had done to support the University and the School of Nursing until they began to discover some of this information after she died in March. Doug said the family has enjoyed learning about her contributions to Clemson. Her family described Bettye as being a private, humble person and not one for the spotlight.
“My mom really kept a lot of things she did with the school under her belt. Every now and then we’d bring up Clemson, and she’d grin. We’d ask, ‘What have you done now?’” Doug said. “It’s been gratifying to know all she’s been involved with at Clemson.”
Bettye has seen – and made – many positive changes in the field of aging. The Cecil family owns and operates White Oak Management, Inc., a group of 16 long-term care communities in North and South Carolina. Bettye earned an education degree while she and her husband, Oliver Kent Cecil, raised their five young children, and she joined the family business in 1974 as a full-time certified recreational therapist and activity coordinator.
Through the years, Bettye and her husband, who passed away in 1996, have supported Clemson University in nursing and architecture. Her husband was a Clemson graduate from the School of Architecture.
With a passion for health care, Bettye donated funds to help renovate the School of Nursing’s Clinical Learning and Research Center, which encompasses a skills lab, simulation space and the learning resource center, since the early 2000s. In 2006, Bettye expanded her philanthropy even further by creating The Bettye Cecil Endowment for the Clinical Learning and Research Center. The fund supports the needs in the center for Clemson nursing students – a critical component of their education.
School of Nursing Director Kathleen Valentine said that the simulation lab is key to teaching students what to do in the field to prevent failures and near misses. There they have the opportunity to practice their skills and work with high-fidelity human patient simulators that can be controlled remotely by professors to imitate real-life hospital situations.
“Students can immerse themselves in well-researched approaches to learning low-volume yet high-risk situations because not every student is going be in a clinical environment where they see a sudden deterioration in a patient’s condition,” Valentine said. “But in the sim lab they can experience this as faculty control the human simulators, and the students can gain confidence in how to respond to the situation.”
More recently, Bettye donated funds needed to renovate the simulation space, which was completed this semester.
The renovated simulation lab includes three new simulation patient rooms, a new mother/baby and pediatric simulation suite, and a large debriefing room. All simulation spaces have adjacent control rooms for the instructor as well as video recording and live streaming capabilities.
Valentine said that the most important part of simulation education is the debriefing. It’s there that students get feedback from fellow students, interprofessional team members and the faculty about what went well and what didn’t go well. They also watch video footage of the simulation to learn how to perform better in that particular situation.
“This renovation has provided what we didn’t have before, which are state-of-the-art debriefing rooms,” Valentine said. “The idea is to deepen learning in high-risk situations so when they are in situations with real patients, they can apply that knowledge, and create a safer patient environment. That’s what Bettye did – create safety, competence and caring for students to learn those values, faculty to teach them, and citizens of South Carolina to experience them.”
Bettye’s granddaughter, Olivia Cecil, was unaware of her grandmother’s donations to the School until she was a junior in the School of Nursing and was giving her father a tour of Edwards Hall. There, they came across a donor plaque with Bettye’s name on it.
She, along with Bettye’s five children and several grandchildren, were able to tour the space that Bettye had helped build after the dedication ceremony, which was special for Olivia.
“It’s amazing to see her legacy live on here at Clemson,” said Olivia, now an ICU nurse in Jacksonville, Florida. “I hadn’t realized that the Learning Resource Center was from her, and she never sought the praise. She has been such an integral part of my nursing education and I had no idea. It’s so special and the degree means so much more now that I know she had such an impact on me and my education.”
Doug and the family said they are looking forward to sharing this information with the family for generations to come to honor her legacy as well as potential opportunities to continue her legacy at Clemson.
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