July 26, 2021

Shirley Thurlow Memorial Nursing Scholarship

Shirley J. Thurlow was born in Flint at the beginning of The Great Depression, and her family later moved to Saginaw, as poor as church mice. The first decade of her life was especially tough, but like most folks they learned to be resourceful and make the best of what they had.  The adversity of those times seems to have been a crucible from which the character of The Greatest Generation was formed – a character infused not only in the men who fought in World War II, but the women of that era as well. So it seemed in our mother’s case – becoming strong, innovative, and determined, but also gentle, compassionate, and caring.

Shirley had essentially two separate but complementary lives. First, she married in 1948 – a year after graduating from Arthur Hill High School – and went on to contribute eight children to the post-war Baby Boom.  What a fabulous time to be raising a family! From our front porch we could see the homes of 40 kids of similar ages. But while we played all day, Shirley worked at cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, and sewing.  She was often a very tired person, but we never heard her complain – not ever. We did not have a lot, but we were happy, thanks to a dedicated, loving mother who remained proud of all her children for the rest of her life.

The second part of Shirley’s life was about being a nurse. In the best tradition of nurses such as Florence Nightingale, the “angel medics” of World War II and the Vietnam War, and those serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shirley was moved to serve others via the medical profession. She worked as a teenage Candy Striper at Saginaw Osteopathic Hospital, and again as a lab technician after high school. At age 46 she completed training as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) working at St. Luke’s Hospital. At age 53, she graduated from the Delta College School of Nursing as Registered Nurse (RN). Shirley spent the next 19 years working in VA hospitals, earning a reputation as a competent and compassionate nurse, who was well liked and respected by her peers. Once asked what her favorite job was as a nurse she responded, “I most enjoyed being a simple floor nurse and taking care of my assigned patients every day.” That was the mother we all knew – happiest when taking care of someone else.

In her last decade – ravaged by dementia – she continued to inspire us with her wit and her unflagging spirit. She always cooperated to the best of her remaining ability, never complained, always offered to help, and thanked us constantly. She was truly, in the words of one of our cousins, a Saint. And so, in her passing we are establishing this scholarship as a tribute to a life well lived, her loving stewardship of our lives, and the shining legacy she has left us. Mother, we are so proud to have had you as our mom, and so appreciative of everything you have given us. We will always love and remember you.  

This will be a non-traditional scholarship, oriented to supporting single mothers or women seeking to become nurses as a second career. It is not meant for high school seniors who want to enter a nursing program immediately after graduation, although high school seniors may be considered if no primary candidates apply. There will be two scholarships presented per year, with a second annual award available on a competitive basis.   


  • Female
  • Resident of Bay, Midland, or Saginaw County
  • Enrolled in LPN/RN program at Delta College School of Nursing
  • Part- or full-time enrollment
  • Financial need
  • Single mothers or “second career” candidates will have priority; graduating high school seniors may be considered if no primary applicants apply

Evaluation Criteria

  • Financial need (30)
  • Letters of recommendation (20)
  • Work experience (20)