All in
the family

A new terrace. A renovated entry.
A pair of 600-pound turtles.

The School of Nursing at The University of Texas at Austin boasts several recent renovations and additions, many made possible through the generosity of donors. The quickly modernizing building is right at home in Austin’s new Health District.

Those bronze turtles—known as Myrtle’s Turtles in honor of their creator—and a portrait of Earl and Myrtle Walker hanging in the nursing building give only a hint of the contributions the Walker family has made to Texas Nursing. Since the very earliest days of nursing at UT, Earl and Myrtle supported the school with their generosity. Now, their eldest child Mary—one of the first students to receive a doctoral degree from the School of Nursing in the 1970s—continues their legacy with gifts that are ensuring the future of nursing education at the university.

Earl and Myrtle Walker were known throughout their lives as philanthropists and strong supporters of the arts, education and health, especially in Kirkwood, Missouri, the suburb of St. Louis where they lived. They shared a longtime connection to UT’s School of Nursing, where Earl served on the school’s Advisory Council.

“Scholarships were very important to my folks,” says their daughter Mary. The Walkers established them at many colleges, universities and foundations, helping thousands of high-achieving students. The endowed scholarship fund they created at UT has supported nearly 500 nursing students over the years.

Myrtle and Earl Walker

Student support was a personal cause for the Walkers. “No one should be barred from college because they don’t have the money,” Earl said, likely thinking of Myrtle, who was admitted to Northwestern University on scholarship but could not afford the $468 fee for room and board.

“We strive to prepare students to be the best health care professionals in Texas and around the world, but that takes funding,” says Alexa Stuifbergen, dean of the School of Nursing. “Thankfully, this family’s generosity continues to be felt—literally—in the building and by our students through the Walkers’ generous gifts in the form of scholarships and renovations. We can’t thank them enough.”

Mary Walker has continued her parents’ work of supporting the educations of future nurses by establishing multiple endowed scholarships to benefit Texas Nursing students.

“Her support for PhD students like me is much appreciated, and will have a ripple effect across the lives of other aspiring nurses,” says Amy Papermaster, a doctoral student in the School of Nursing and a nurse practitioner in the Women’s Health Institute at UT Health Austin. “Supporting more nurse educators will in turn support more nurses.”

Walker has also made gifts to support upcoming renovations and improvements to the nursing building. Spaces like the Walker Terrace and the Walker Foyer will honor her family’s tradition of giving back.

The two turtles now at home on the terrace are the last of 25 pairs that were cast from Myrtle’s design in the Walkers’ own foundry. Like the others, they mark a place that Earl and Myrtle valued and supported. You can find Myrtle’s turtles at Kirkwood High School and on the shores of Walker Lake in Kirkwood, at St. Louis’ children’s museum The Magic House, on other university campuses and now in Austin. “The turtles were left to the places important to them,” Mary explains. “So I did the same thing.”

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