Seventy-year-old Erna Brown always remembered what it was like to struggle to pay for uniforms while in college to become a nurse.
That was the impetus for Brown's decision to bequeath her estate of more than $300,000 to the Sierra College Foundation in order to help nursing students pay for uniforms, shoes and other college expenses, said Sonbol Aliabadi, the foundation's executive director.
The longtime Kaiser Hospital nurse, who died of a heart-related illness in August, will have the first two $1,000 scholarships awarded in her honor this fall. The deadline for students to apply for the scholarships is Monday.
The foundation also will award grants to students. Brown expressed a particular interest in helping single parents looking to enter the nursing profession.
"She was an extremely kindhearted individual," Aliabadi said.
Brown was born in Santa Rosa and moved to Sacramento in the late 1960s. She worked for the state Transportation Department's bridge division before switching careers to become a nurse.
She spent more than 20 years as a Sacramento nurse, working in the newborn intensive care unit at Kaiser Hospital for many years. She later worked as an advice nurse in a call center.
Brown received her registered nurse degree and a master's in hospital administration from Sacramento State. Most recently, she lived in Sun City Lincoln Hills.
"I met her about five years ago and she told me about her passion for nursing and how she wanted to give back," Aliabadi said. "She visited our nursing program and liked the program."
After the first meeting, Aliabadi said, Brown told her she wanted to leave her estate to the program.
"You can imagine the shock and appreciation with her desire to give back," Aliabadi said.
Brown wasn't married and did not have children. Her niece, Tracy Mitchell, said she supported her aunt's donation.
"I told her I thought it was fantastic," Mitchell said. "I'm really touched that the school is so excited about the endowment."
The donation is the second largest from an individual in the 39-year history of the Sierra College Foundation. In 2006, Les A. Miller bequeathed more than $1 million to the foundation.