University News

Ruth Dexter Nursing Scholarship

October 25, 2012

Share |
Printer friendly version

MACOMB, IL -- The Dexter family of Macomb has a long tradition with Western Illinois University, dating back to 1958, when Dr. Don Dexter, his wife, Ruth, and their young family moved to Macomb for Don to work as a surgeon. Ruth's family recently established a nursing scholarship in her memory, involving two establishments important to the family: McDonough District Hospital and Western Illinois University.

Don and Ruth met while he was completing a surgical residency at Illinois Central Hospital in Chicago, where Ruth was a physical therapist.

"My attending physician thought I was interested in physical therapy because I found so many excuses to go there," said Don. "It wasn't until after Ruth and I married that he figured out why."

After marrying, Don completed Navy service, then returned to Cook County Hospital with his bride to finish up his surgical training and find work. One of Don's classmates suggested Macomb, and he knew about the need in the community because he grew up in Industry. It also happened that Don and Ruth's downstairs neighbor was from Colchester. When the call came in 1958 that Macomb needed a surgeon, Don, Ruth, and their two young sons headed for home.

The Dexters quickly became part of the Macomb, WIU, and health care communities. Don practiced medicine and conducted surgery at McDonough District Hospital, while Ruth raised their four children. They both loved and supported Western, with Don serving as team physician for all athletics from 1961-1988 and also as physician at Beu Health Center from 1993-2007 after retiring from private medical practice. Don and Ruth were loyal Leathernecks, members of the Performing Arts Society and have made 46 acres of their property available for use by Western's School of Agriculture for many years.

"A scholarship was something we talked about," said Don. "When Western began its nursing program, it seemed like a natural thing to do. The scholarship was important to Ruth, and is consistent with the other things she did to help people – reading for the Audio Information Services, serving as troop leader for Girl Scouts with special needs and driving cancer patients for treatment in Galesburg and Peoria. It also blends two entities we both care very deeply for: Western and MDH."

The Ruth Dexter Scholarship in Nursing will make $1,000 annual awards to students who are employees of McDonough District Hospital pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at Western.

"This scholarship has allowed me to finance my nursing education and I greatly appreciate the opportunity," said junior nursing major Megan Wallen of Macomb, and one of the first two recipients of the Ruth Dexter Scholarship in Nursing this year. "It has helped me greatly in the pursuit of my nursing profession."

Applications are available at the McDonough District Hospital Human Resources Department.

Posted By: Julie Murphy, WIU Foundation (
Office of University Communications & Marketing