A big believer in the importance of nursing and liberal arts education, Lenore Ahalt Bandler ’55 and her husband, David Bandler, have established two nursing scholarships at Wagner College. “I thought this was the best place to put my money where my mouth is,” she says.
Bandler and her younger sister, Janet Ahalt Rodgers ’57, grew up in small-town Pennsylvania. Bandler’s parents wanted her to stay close to home and attend a hospital-based nurse training program; but when she learned about Wagner College and its four-year nursing bachelor’s degree in New York City, she managed to persuade them to let her go.
Attending Wagner College expanded her mind and experience in many ways. She loved the city, exploring its sights, foods, and cultural opportunities. She loved her broad-based liberal arts education, fondly recalling the psychology professor who took her class to a jazz club in Harlem, and the fiery French professor who forced the students to keep up with her rapid-fire French. And she loved nursing dean Mary Burr, who always said, “Remember, you are not learning procedures, you are learning principles.” Being part of the choir under Sigvart Steen allowed her to take her first international trip, a multi-city tour of Germany.
One of Bandler’s most enjoyable nursing positions was at Cornell Medical Center in New York City, where she taught and also learned from doing the rounds with the medical students and attending discussions with the faculty. She also worked as a nurse at the Brooklyn V.A. hospital and for the Health Insurance Plan (HIP) in Manhattan.
Lenore married Cornell professor David Bandler in 1961, and they had two sons. At age 50, she returned to school, earning her master’s in health education at SUNY Cortland. Founder of a pre-K school, she also started a Women’s Midlife Health workshop in Ithaca. “I think it’s more important to keep the person healthy before they become ill,” she says.
Meanwhile, her sister Janet held faculty and administrative positions at Wagner, Lycoming College, and Old Dominion University, and she retired as professor and dean emerita of the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of San Diego. In recent years, however, Bandler was dismayed to see nursing programs being closed at some colleges, such as Lycoming. When Janet died in 2012, a scholarship was established in her memory at the University of San Diego. Bandler thought it was about time to establish something similar at Wagner. “My sister and I had both gone to Wagner, and we both got a really good education in nursing and in the liberal arts,” she says. She used her inheritance from her sister to establish the Dr. Janet Ahalt Rodgers ’57 Nursing Scholarship.
Then her husband surprised her by establishing an endowed scholarship in her own name. Jessica Conde ’16 is the first recipient of the Lenore Ahalt Bandler ’55 Nursing Scholarship. “This scholarship has been one of the most amazing things,” says Conde, whose parents are immigrants from Colombia and do not have the means to help her pay for college. “Ever since I was younger, I’ve had a passion for helping people. I found nursing to be the most rewarding and satisfying job in helping others. This scholarship means so much to me.”