Helping Those Who Care for Others

Jan, 2021
Jack and Diana McGurk standing in front of a bridge, next to a river

Many nurses will tell you that nursing is a calling, describing their role as both advocate and protector, blending art and science in the care they provide.

Jack McGurk (‘66, Biology) knows from personal experience the dedication and empathy it takes to become a nurse. These skills played a critical role as the caretaker of his wife, Diana (‘66, Home Economics), whom he met at Humboldt State College in the 1960s.

Sadly, Diana lost her battle with cancer in 2019. In her memory, and to honor the nurses who cared for Diana during chemotherapy and hospice, Jack made a gift of more than $100,000 to HSU to establish the Diana M. McGurk Memorial Scholarship Endowment. The endowment will support scholarships for students in HSU’s RN to BSN Nursing program.  

The commitment to healthcare runs deep in the McGurk family. Jack owns Systems Improvement Initiators, a consulting company for healthcare facilities and other organizations. As executive director of the non-profit Hospital Alliance Association, he helps hospitals improve operations and implement cost-effective environmental improvements. His daughter and two sisters are nurses as well.

“The nurses who cared for Diana were an impetus for giving to HSU and the Nursing program,” he says.

Jack says he was also inspired by HSU President Tom Jackson. “The president has a strong vision for the future, plus the tenacity and thoughtfulness to move it forward.”

Launched last Fall, HSU’s RN to BSN program is designed to prepare leaders in nursing to practice cultural humility and is responsive to rural areas populated by diverse communities, including indigenous communities. The program has a focus on addressing health disparities, rural health needs, and behavioral health. At the same time, the program will build the healthcare workforce in the North Coast,where nurses are in short supply but in high demand. 

Last December, via Zoom, Jack was able to meet some of HSU’s nursing students. He shared with them why he’s supporting the Nursing program, the reason behind his lifelong passion for improving healthcare, and some ideas for decreasing infection rates in hospitals.

“I am grateful for Jack's generosity and support of our program,” says Kimberly Perris, HSU’s Nursing program director. “Our students appreciated hearing his story. It gave them a new perspective to see their role as nurses and an opportunity to consider creative approaches to improve the patient experience.”

“Giving to HSU is like leaving a legacy. By providing access to excellent training and education at HSU, you’re helping the next generation of people who are entering our workforce become successful. Students need support. Let’s help them out,” Jack says.

You can support nursing students through gifts to the Humboldt State University RN to BSN Nursing Endowment and in other ways. Call the HSU Foundation at 707-826-5200 or visit for details.