The VOICE of UPMC Shadyside The VOICE of UPMC Shadyside Winter 2020–2021

Honoring a friendship

The Betty Rowe Ramseur Nursing Scholarship — endowed through the Shadyside Hospital Foundation

 Rebecca McCrea grew up in the countryside near the small city of New Philadelphia, Ohio. Betty Rowe came from an urban neighborhood in Pittsburgh. But different as their backgrounds were, their friendship was immediate when the two met 50 years ago as nursing school roommates in Canton, Ohio.

“This was 1970 — a tough time in the United States,” Betty remembers. “We were in the midst of the Vietnam War and the Black Power movement. Feelings were raw. People didn’t know what to think of each other. And I was the only Black student in our class of 90. I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to. But Becky went out of her way to make me feel comfortable. She was so easygoing; it was easy to talk to her. We felt able to express ourselves to each other honestly. I found out later that the director of student living had approached Becky and asked her if she would mind rooming with a Black girl.”

“I told her I would be happy to,” Rebecca remembers. “I thought it would be an opportunity to learn more about people. There was one Black woman in the class above us, and one Black woman in the class below. And it was not an easy road for any of them. It just felt like a real ordeal to go through on top of everything else, because we were in a very tough program. We all moaned and groaned a lot, but because we had each other, we survived it.”

After graduation, Rebecca stayed in Canton, married a cardiologist, taught courses in medical terminology for several years, continued her education, and raised three children. Betty married, becoming Betty Ramseur, had two children, and stayed in nursing, working at Montefiore Hospital, Jefferson Regional Medical Center, and the UPMC Visiting Nurse Association. Both are now grandmothers.

And they have stayed in touch, getting together at least once a year with a core group of other alums. For at least 15 years they gathered in Florida, at a condo Rebecca and her husband owned before they moved to Olympia, Washington, to be near one of their sons and his family. “Those get-togethers were special,” says Rebecca, who became Rebecca Kamen when she married. “We’ve all been through some difficult times, especially as our children got into their teens. Some of our sessions were just monumental openings of the soul — and your gut hurt from laughing so much, too.”

“And,” Betty remembers, “you felt good at the end of the trip.” 

When Rebecca turned 70½, she became eligible to withdraw from a small IRA she started in her teaching years. 

"Having Betty as a friend opened my mind. I’m so grateful for this experience, all these years later, because it has benefited my children, too. It has helped me pass on to them a sensitivity to other cultures different from their own. It has given them a wider understanding of people.”
- Rebecca McCrea Kamen

“One night, as the events of Black Lives Matter unfolded, I started thinking about how I could make some kind of contribution to Black lives with that money. Betty and our long friendship came into my mind. ‘If she will let me,’ I thought, ‘I could endow a scholarship for Black nursing students in her honor.’ I wanted to do this not only because I love Betty, but also because she has been such a source of learning in my life. She is the closest person I know in the African American community, and knowing her — and her dear, beloved late mother, Mamie Rowe — has helped balance my understanding of people. Having Betty as a friend opened my mind. I’m so grateful for this experience, all these years later, because it has benefited my children, too. It has helped me pass on to them a sensitivity to other cultures different from their own. It has given them a wider understanding of people.”

Linda Kmetz, PhD, RN, executive director of the UPMC Schools of Nursing, says that students have been thrilled by this scholarship opportunity. “Both Betty and Rebecca made it clear to me that the scholarship needed to go to a UPMC Shadyside School of Nursing student who has demonstrated a full commitment to nursing and to taking advantage of their nursing education.”

Linda Kmetz and Rebecca Kamen also thanked Louise Brown, executive director of the Shadyside Hospital Foundation, for the smooth and easy creation of the scholarship endowment.

“This has exceeded my best wishes and expectations,” says Rebecca. “I’m really pleased. And I know Betty will make sure it’s done right.”

“I am deeply honored,” Betty comments. “This is a very moving way to honor our friendship of 50 years.”