Scholarship Will Help USC Upstate Student Pursue Her Dream Career In Nursing

February 3, 2017 at 10:53 am

Karen Thomas

A University of South Carolina Upstate student with years of experience on the university’s staff may now find it a little easier to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. Karen Thomas, who has worked on campus as an administrative assistant, was awarded the Zerno E. Martin Nursing Scholarship, which was named for a former senior vice president for the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System who was a driving force behind the founding of USC Upstate.

In announcing the scholarship award, Katharine M. Gibb, dean of the Mary Black School of Nursing at USC Upstate, talked about Thomas’ long-standing service to the school, and praised her personality.

“Karen is an enthusiastic adult learner who has wanted to be a nurse for years but for many reasons put her dream on hold and has been completing the pre-requisites for nursing for the past few years,” Gibb said. “She is a wonderful role model and mentor for her classmates, especially the younger ones. Karen is an excellent student and well respected by all the faculty. She was a perfect choice” for the scholarship.

Thomas, who has worked at the university for 17 years, said that becoming a nurse has been a longtime goal.

“I am a non-traditional student fulfilling a lifelong nursing dream,” she explained. “Words cannot express the joy and pride I feel to be enrolled. I consider myself truly privileged and honored to have this opportunity each and every day to be part of such an outstanding degree program.”

Eligibility for the scholarship includes being a full-time student at USC Upstate who is a declared nursing major, and who has been accepted to the Mary Black School of Nursing. Candidates must have a GPA of at least 3.0, and preference is given to students who will pursue employment with the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System once they have passed the nursing board exams.

Zerno Martin

Martin, who died in January of 2016 at age 82, was a retired hospital administrator whose career with the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System spanned a half-century. He was instrumental in the founding of USC Upstate in 1967 to avert a nursing shortage that was anticipated when Spartanburg General Hospital ended its training program for nurses. Martin, who was also a member of the USC Upstate Foundation Board of Directors, established his scholarship in 2011.

For more information, contact Bea Walters Smith, director of development & foundation scholarships, at 864-503-5235 or