Montana State University said Monday that the founders of an insurance company are donating $101 million to its nursing school. School officials said the donation is the largest gift to a university nursing program in U.S. history and will help the state deal with a shortage of nurses.
The donors are Mark and Robyn Jones, the billionaire founders of Goosehead Insurance and part-time Montana residents.
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The couple, originally from Alberta, Canada, were inspired to make the gift after losing a friend to cancer and learning of the need for more health care professionals in Montana, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported. The couple is building a second home in the Whitefish area, where they vacationed as children.
“This is a significant moment for MSU, as we estimate we will now be able to meet the state’s projected shortfall in baccalaureate-level registered nurses by 2030,” MSU College of Nursing Dean Sarah Shannon said.
The goal of the donation is to allow MSU to increase the number of four-year nursing students who graduate each year from 256 to 400 by 2030 and add to the ranks of nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners can be primary health care providers and can prescribe medication.
Montana State plans to build new school buildings and labs at MSU College of Nursing campuses in Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell and Missoula over the next nine years. The donation will also fund scholarships and an endowment to increase pay for five professors.
“It is hard to put into words how moved and excited all of us are at Montana State University by the generosity of the Joneses, who are helping to address some of the most critical health care disparity issues in Montana, particularly in the state’s rural areas,” MSU President Waded Cruzado said in a statement.
Forbes has calculated the Jones’ net worth at $2.9 billion. Westlake, Texas-based Goosehead Insurance sells auto, home and life insurance.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.