SMU Receives $10 Million Gift to Fund Podiatric Medicine and Nursing Programs

Kirsten Hammann, SMU News

The Largest Gift in University’s History Will Transform Health Sciences Education in Northern California

Samuel Merritt University (SMU) has received a $10 million gift from the estate of esteemed alumnus and podiatrist Russell Odell Lewis, DPM ’65 to fund endowed scholarships for SMU’s Doctor of Podiatric Medicine students as well as students in the College of Nursing. It is the largest gift in the University’s history, and it comes at a time when Northern California is facing a massive healthcare workforce shortage over the next 10 years.

The need for healthcare staff is projected to increase by more than 15 percent by 2029.

The transformational gift from Dr. and Mrs. Lewis will provide significant scholarship opportunities for all students, particularly students of color and first-generation college students. The Lewis gift will also provide critical resources to increase enrollment at Samuel Merritt University, as SMU works to address the workforce development needs of Northern California.

SMU graduates more nurses than any other university in California, and these graduates overwhelmingly return to serve their home communities. 89 percent of our graduates remain in California; 68 percent work in urban settings; and 30 percent are employed at Medically Underserved Areas/Populations (MUA/P)–designated worksites. Thanks to the support and generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Lewis, we can offer these exceptional outcomes to even more students — transforming healthcare in Northern California and beyond.” — SMU President Dr. Ching-Hua Wang

Dr. Lewis, a graduate of SMU’s Doctor of Podiatric Medicine program, and Mrs. Lewis, a registered nurse, were fixtures in the Bay Area medical community for more than three decades. Lewis often said the two greatest things to ever happen to him were marrying Antoinette and graduating from podiatry school. As the first in his family to attend college and the only Black student in his graduating class in 1965, Lewis was driven and committed to his studies.

Antoinette and Russell O. Lewis, DPM ’65
Antoinette and Russell O. Lewis, DPM ’65

“Dr. and Mrs. Lewis cared deeply about the patients they served, and they were staunch supporters of our mission to expand access for underserved students to receive the exceptional health sciences education SMU provides,” said Al Frisone, Vice President of Advancement and Communications. “Wider access to our state-of-the-art facilities and curricula not only benefits our graduates — whose average starting salaries are amongst the highest in the country — it also increases health equity within our communities.”

“Our goal is to double SMU’s enrollment in the next 10 years, and the Dr. Russell O. and Antoinette M. Lewis Endowed Scholarship Fund makes this lofty goal one that is immensely achievable,” said Timothy Cranford, Vice President of Student Affairs. “This gift has truly transformational potential for Samuel Merritt University and healthcare in California and beyond.”

For more on the Lewises and their incredible gift, look for the next issue of Samuel Merritt University Magazine, out later this month.

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