Alum establishes scholarship for URI nursing grad students

John H. Visneuski Master/Doctor of Nursing Practice Scholarship created out of ‘great respect for nursing profession’

KINGSTON, R.I. — Oct. 25, 2023 — Qualified nursing students who might otherwise not have been able to do so will be able to further their education in University of Rhode Island College of Nursing graduate programs, thanks to a new endowment established by an alumnus of the URI College of Engineering.

The John H. Visneuski Master/Doctor of Nursing Practice Scholarship will provide annual support to a qualified student pursuing a master’s and/or Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, based on academic merit and financial need. One qualified student will receive the support each year, selected by the deans of nursing and the URI Graduate School.

The endowment is courtesy of John Visneuski ‘70, an engineering graduate who “has a great respect for the nursing profession.” An engineer with the Naval Underwater Warfare Center, Visneuski has been a longtime supporter of the College of Engineering, establishing the John H. Visneuski Biomedical Engineering Scholarship and the John H. Visneuski Biomedical Teaching Lab, as well as making multiple gifts to Rhody Now: Engineering and the URI Society of Women Engineers. While he continues to support engineering students, he has added the College of Nursing to his philanthropy portfolio for a very personal reason.

“I always thought about contributing to the College of Nursing,” Visneuski said, noting his mother was a nurse at the Providence Lying-In Hospital, which became Women & Infants Hospital. “I just needed a little extra motivation. And COVID provided that. During the COVID years, it became clear to me that nursing is not just a job; it becomes part of life. Nurses have risks associated with their job that are not always appreciated, and they must make personal sacrifices. Those things came through clearly during COVID that were kind of hidden from the average person.”

Once he settled on finding a way to help the nursing profession, Visneuski’s association with URI made it an easy decision where to direct his funds—the education of future nurses. URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement helped arrange a meeting with nursing Interim Dean Betty Rambur to learn how his contribution can best help students. Originally considering a gift to benefit undergraduate students, Visneuski said he came to realize that a scholarship to support graduate students would make the most impact.

“It became clear to me that at this stage of life, graduate nursing students have a lot of things going on at the same time, demands not only on their time and on them physically and emotionally, but also financially,” Visneuski said. “It’s a stage of someone’s career where they may be raising a family and finances become more challenging. So I knew this is what I wanted to form. And thanks to my College of Engineering degree, I am in a position to do that.”

After attaining his degree in electrical engineering, Visneuski went to work for the Navy early in his career and eventually for NUWC, becoming program manager for a number of large-scale programs. He retired in 2021, but continues working as a contract engineer for the center. Visneuski has donated to many causes over the years, but said his connection to URI, and the impact his contributions make, focuses his giving on the university.

“Most everyone who graduates college has a special connection with where their undergraduate school; it’s kind of where you grew up,” Visneuski said. “I’ve learned that scholarship assistance seems to help the student disproportionally to the dollar amount. By being awarded the scholarship, it’s not just the money, but it’s also the encouragement, the vote of confidence and maybe an ego boost that comes along with it. I didn’t fully appreciate that at first.”

Rambur echoes Visneuski thoughts that the scholarship represents more than just the money it conveys. “The John Visneuski Scholarship makes a distinctive contribution to the health and healing of people of our region and beyond by supporting the education of advanced practice nurses,” Rambur said. “We are very grateful for Mr. Visneuski’s generosity.”

Visneuski said he intends to continue his support for URI well into the future, including to College of Nursing students. He said he enjoys the feeling that he’s helped some students complete their education and move toward accomplishing their career goals. He said he also appreciates the need for investing in the future of health care for the good of society—and, perhaps, for himself personally, as well.

“Another reason I’ve gotten more interested in nursing is that as I’ve gotten older, I realize I’m much more likely to have interactions with nurses in my future than I’ve had in my past,” Visneuski said. “I have a picture in my mind, near the end of life in a bed somewhere and having a nurse come in and say, ‘Are you the John Visneuski who sponsored my scholarship?’ That’s the image I have. If that happens, it’ll be perfect.”