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Groce Family Bequeaths $1.3 Million to Salem State University

The late Walter G. and Betty Groce have gifted Salem State University with a bequest totaling $1.3 million. This sum establishes a permanent, endowed fund that will financially assist students enrolled in the university’s School of Nursing. The bequest was made in honor of Betty, who wanted to be a nurse but instead cared for her family while Walter pursued his career; and Walter’s half-sister, Martha Evans, who planned on a nursing career before passing away from tuberculosis at age 17.

Established as the Martha Evans and Betty Groce Scholarship, the $1.3 million endowed fund will allow Salem State University to provide $4,500 scholarships to 10 nursing students every year in perpetuity.

“Amid an ongoing pandemic and a nursing shortage in the years ahead, the impact of this generous gift will reach far beyond Salem State and our students,” said John Keenan, president of Salem State University. “Through the opportunities they have opened up for generations of aspiring nurses, and the communities that will benefit from their care, the Groce family’s deep kindness will touch many lives for years to come. Our School of Nursing is a great point of pride for Salem State, and I am thankful and honored that the Groce family saw what a lasting impact could be made through their support.”

“The majority of our nursing students rely on scholarships and other forms of financial aid to complete their degree and reach their goal of launching a healthcare career,” said Joanne Carlson, chairperson of the School of Nursing at Salem State University. “We are forever grateful to the Groce family for bequeathing such a generous gift to assist our dedicated students, both today and for generations to come.”

With 565 students enrolled, the Salem State University School of Nursing helps to prepare current and future nurses to meet the many challenges of today’s complex healthcare environment through several undergraduate, graduate, and certification programs. The School of Nursing is fully approved by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing, and its baccalaureate and master’s degrees in nursing are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Walter and Betty Groce’s son, Robert, said that his parents came from humble beginnings and worked hard throughout their marriage to save and invest.

“When my father, Walter, enrolled in the Army Corps of Engineers Unit in the late 1930s, he saved all his military pay and sent it back to Betty for savings,” Robert explained. “In the 1950s, he began investing these meager savings in electric, gas, and telephone utility stock.”

Through the 1990s, these original investments grew into a sizable fortune. This is when the Groces decided to fulfill their dreams by ultimately gifting half of their estate to a school of nursing in Betty’s honor, and another portion to the Radio Club of America, as amateur radio communication was Walter’s great passion.

“Walter created an ingenious trust as a way to direct his wealth beyond his death,” Robert said of his father. “He devised and initiated a two-phase trust, which distributed all the annual earnings to his grandchildren for 10 years—even past his and Betty’s departure. The grandchildren received an annual income distribution and paid their portion of tax on taxable earnings. After Walter passed away in 2014, Betty amended the original trust to distribute a portion of the Trust holdings to her four children.”

According to Cheryl Crounse, executive director of the Salem State University Foundation, “Through their estate planning, Mr. and Mrs. Groce were able to stipulate how their remaining funds should be allocated to charity while still offering an annual income stream to their children and grandchildren. We at Salem State University are grateful that the Groce Family is supporting our nursing students in such a meaningful and needed way, and we are honored to carry out their wishes.”

Nicole Giambusso
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