TTUHSC Nursing Alumna Christina Chen received the Odell Woody Memorial Endowed Scholarship. Called to Serve

Scholarship Honoring a Grandmother's Legacy Provides Support for Nursing Alumna to Fulfill Her Dream

By Danette Baker 

Christina Chen, BSN, spent a large part of her childhood at the hospital as her father battled a debilitating illness that eventually took his life. There were many of what she describes as “bad days,” no promise for the patient or their family. The compassion shown by the nurses, however, punctuated the painful memories—leading Chen to a career in nursing.

"The nurses were always at his bedside; they were the ones who celebrated Christmas with us the year we spent it in the hospital. They would make sure we had eaten or tuck me into the bed with a blanket when I’d lay down beside my dad after his surgery. That greatly impacted me, and I knew that was something that I could see myself in the future doing for other people as well.”

Chen, who served three years as a medic in the U.S. Army, graduated in December 2018 with her bachelor’s degree through the School of Nursing’s Veteran to BSN program—a reality made possible thanks in part to the generosity of Jay Woody, M.D., and his wife, Katrina Watland.


Jay Woody, MD, and Katrina Watland

Odell Woody Memorial Endowed Scholarship

Shortly after Odell Woody Cook’s death in January 2014, six months shy of her 100th birthday, Woody and his family wanted to honor his grandmother’s legacy of service to her profession, her community and their family.

They established the Odell Woody Memorial Endowed Scholarship in 2014. Chen, the fourth recipient, received funding for her
last semester in nursing school.

“I knew (my grandmother) would want to pay it forward, and I felt it was my job to do that for her,” said Woody, who credits
his wife with the idea to establish a scholarship. “Texas Tech permeates our family; because of our fondness for the university and her fondness to nursing, it only made sense for the scholarship to be here. We hope it sets recipients up for a bright future in the nursing field.”


Odell’s Era in Nursing

Woody’s memories of his grandmother were of a woman who was all business in all that she did. “She was a pretty serious person, but she could have some fun, and she made a great breakfast.

“No doubt her medical background influenced me,” said Woody, a physician board-certified in emergency medicine and founder and chief medical officer for Legacy ER & Urgent Care in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and its parent company Intuitive Health. “The stories she told about what she did were exciting. I do think I understood enough growing up to know that she was about doing good things to help people.”

Odell Woody, circa 1930s

Odell Woody newspaper clipping

 Odell entered the West Texas Hospital School of Nursing in September 1930, when America was in the throes of the Great Depression. College wasn’t an option, but nursing was a field where women could earn a degree, and at the same time, a living. While in school, she made $15 a month for spending money, in addition to having her room and board, uniforms and laundry supplied. In return, the nursing students received an education and worked in the hospital, gaining a nursing education alongside real-world experience, according to a 1979 interview with Odell Woody that is part of Texas Tech’s Southwest Collection.

The following year, Odell began volunteering for the Red Cross. Her first assignment was at the lost and found booth at the South Plains Fair. She graduated from nursing school in 1933, earning her registered nurse credentials. Odell also worked alongside her husband, Glenn Woody, building Woody Tire Company, raised three sons and supported them in their activities, and worked tirelessly to serve others through her church, St. John’s United Methodist Church.

For almost six decades, Odell contributed to the field of nursing as a clinical nurse, an educator, and as a Red Cross nurse and volunteer. Her work led her to serve others in the aftermath of natural disasters – tornadoes in Lubbock, Wichita Falls and Vernon, Texas, a hurricane in Pennsylvania and a flood in Kentucky – as well as the Vietnamese refugees at Camp Pendleton following the Vietnam War. 

Woody was 11 when his grandmother brought him a jar of volcanic ash from the eruption at Mount St. Helens. “I just remember she was gone for a long time and, being a kid, thought it was so cool to have volcanic ash.”

Years later, the nurses in their Catholic habits at the Dallas hospital where he did clinical rotation brought back mental pictures of her in the unblemished, stark white uniform and cap—a poignant nursing brand for the period. And he remembers his grandmother quizzing him about the cranial nerves and knowing spot-on the correct answer. “From that point on, I began to more fully appreciate the things she had done and the knowledge she had.

An undeniable impact

 “I think (my grandmother) would be flattered to know her legacy is helping others become nurses,” Woody said. “One of the best parts of this gift for me is that as an endowed scholarship, her legacy will be around long after I’m gone. I can only imagine how many students over the years it will have impacted.”

For Chen, this and other scholarship support has allowed her the opportunity to focus more on time on her academics, which she said will not only help her be a better nurse, but also is necessary for her to get into graduate school. Chen’s goals are to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

"There is an extreme shortage of mental health providers statewide,” she said. “But, especially for those that are leaving the military or those that are veterans. I’ve seen it myself during active duty in the military as when I got out. People I really care about aren’t receiving mental health treatment that they need. I want to be one of those people that can provide that for those in need. That’s what I look forward to—being that nurse who is there for others just like the ones who were there for me.”





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