CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A $1.5 million donation from the estate of a former Kanawha County judge has helped create a new laboratory with "space age" technology that will be used by the University of Charleston's nursing and physician assistant students.
The Health Science Simulation Lab, which was completed with the donation from Judge Robert K. Smith's estate, was unveiled Friday morning in UC's Riggleman Hall.
The lab features realistic, computer-operated simulation Manikins, which will help students practice actual medical techniques to see how the patients respond. The Manikins breathe, sweat, bleed and can be programmed with many ailments and conditions, said UC nursing professor Karen Hoschar.
"The University of Charleston is truly humbled by the generosity of Judge Smith and his family," UC President Ed Welch said. "Donations of this nature are truly transformative for our institution. The funds received from this gift will assist in the education of current and future UC students for many generations."
The lab received $250,000 from the donation, with another $500,000 going to fund nursing scholarships. The other half of the $1.5 million will help establish a new English as a Second Language program at UC, with $500,000 going toward technology needs and the remaining $250,000 establishing an endowment toward the salary of ESL teachers, Welch said Friday.
Smith was a faculty member of the former Morris Harvey College -- now UC -- and his daughter, Robyn, received her education degree from the school in 1975.
Welch called Smith "a private person, even though he was a public figure. A mentor and dedicated family man who cherished his wife, who he called the love of his life, and his daughter, who he called the light of his life, both of whom preceded him in death," Welch said.
Smith's wife, Mary, was a registered nurse and a graduate of Kanawha Valley Hospital in Charleston, said Nancy Brown, the Smiths' niece, who attended the event Friday.
"[Mary] used her training in various aspects of her life," Brown said. "One of the last times she used her training was to perform CPR on a patient that had collapsed at a doctors' office here in Charleston. The patient was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy."
"The patient was a 44-year-old female and the patient's name was Robyn. My cousin did not survive that day, despite the valiant efforts of several doctors and nurses," Brown said through tears.
"It was an unfathomable loss to her parents. Robyn was tall like her dad and had blonde hair like her mom," Brown said. "She graduated from this school and she was proud to call it her alma mater."
Robyn Smith taught Spanish and French in Kanawha County and spent many hours trying to make her class exciting so her students would be engaged in learning, Brown said.
"After the loss of Robyn, my aunt and uncle had to find a new way to affect future generations," she said. "They decided to gift Robyn's alma mater and to do so in an area directly connected to Robyn through foreign language. The second part of the gift would be to remember my Aunt Mary and her chosen profession."