June 17, 2021

Sister Mary Alma Pilarski.

The Sister Mary Alma Pilarski Nursing Scholarship was recently established by Dr. Carol Ashton of Blessing to benefit Wharton County Junior College students enrolled in their final year of the Associate Degree Nursing program. From left are WCJC's Vice President of Administrative Services Bryce Kocian, WCJC President Betty McCrohan, Dr. Carol Ashton and WCJC's Director of Financial Aid Leslie Kolojaco.

WHARTON, TEXAS – Qualified students of Wharton County Junior College’s Associate Degree Nursing program will soon have another avenue for financial assistance thanks to a new scholarship. The Sister Mary Alma Pilarski Nursing Scholarship will provide one $4,000 scholarship annually to an ADN student entering their final year of the two-year program.

The late Sister Mary Alma Pilarski’s grand-niece, Dr. Carol M. Ashton, M.D., of Blessing, funded the scholarship in honor of her aunt’s memory and for the purpose of encouraging students to pursue healthcare-related jobs in rural communities and to spawn careers in nursing education.  

“We are thankful for Dr. Ashton’s support,” said WCJC President Betty McCrohan. “The scholarship will help students to make their dreams a reality.”

Ashton credits Pilarski with being the inspiration for her own successful career as a physician.

“I was fortunate to have Sister Alma in my life,” she said. “She changed the trajectory of my life and never realized the beneficial effect she had on me.”

Born in 1907 in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, Pilarski joined the Congregation of Sisters of Saint Felix of Cantalice (the Felicians), a Catholic Franciscan community, in 1921. She entered the nursing profession after serving as an elementary school teacher, earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing education from Catholic University in Washington D.C. and her master’s degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Pilarski worked in a hospital in Puerto Rico before transferring to the Blackwell General Hospital in Blackwell, Okla., where she organized and directed the state’s first school of practical nursing in 1948. From there, she went on to serve as director of nursing schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In 1965, she founded and directed an Associate Degree Nursing program for Felician College in Lodi, New Jersey. She passed away in 1980 at the age of 72.

Ashton said Pilarski served as a positive influence for thousands of students pursuing careers in the healthcare field, noting that she was “always accessible to her students, who loved her for her direct gaze, wisdom and wry sense of humor.”

“Scholarships such as the one created by Dr. Ashton offer an excellent opportunity to honor the memory of a loved one while giving back to the community,” said Zina Carter, WCJC’s director of marketing, communications and advancement. “We hope this generous gift inspires others to do the same and invest in future generations.”