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A temporary scholarship program that helps nursing students pay tuition while guaranteeing low nursing vacancy rates was made permanent on Monday with a sizeable donation to St. Vincent Healthcare.

Ralph Nelles gave $1.5 million to the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation to ensure the Nelles Nurse Scholarship Program will last forever.

“I think this community’s been good to me, and I should leave something so my family will be remembered,” Nelles said. “This is a proud day in my life and my family’s life.”

Nelles established the temporary scholarship program four years ago with a $325,000 gift that was matched by the hospital foundation.

Since then, more than 50 nursing students have received financial awards.

In exchange, students agree to work at St. Vincent Healthcare after graduation.

The Nelles scholarship fund was set to run out next year.

It is now expected to help upward of 30 students a year into the foreseeable future.

“This is an historic day at St. Vincent Healthcare,” said Dave Irion, president of the hospital foundation. “This is a day that will be remembered into eternity thanks to the generosity of Ralph Nelles and his family.”

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