A gift of love: His and hers health colleges

$10 million names Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

FIU’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine has a new companion, the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences, named by Dr. Herbert Wertheim in honor of his companion of 44 years, his beloved wife Nicole. The $10 million gift embodies the Wertheim family’s commitment to clinical and interdisciplinary research, preventive care, and the belief that the best health care is delivered when doctors and nurses work in unison.

Dr. Herbert and Nicole Wertheim pose with a celebratory cake aboard The World Sept. 25, 2013, to celebrate the naming of the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Dr. Herbert and Nicole Wertheim pose with a celebratory cake Sept. 25, 2013, aboard the ship The World, in celebration of the naming of the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing & Health Sciences and their $10 million gift to the university.

“This gift brings together two important passions of mine: healthcare and FIU,” said Dr. Wertheim, whose involvement with the university spans three decades. “I am a fortunate man to share these passions with my family and be in a position to commemorate that commitment in honor of the love of my life, Nicole. This gift reflects the love we have for our community and is a pledge to create more high quality health professionals, who will collaborate for the benefit of our community.”

The gift will create a lasting legacy for thousands of students to come, and will make FIU the only university in the country with a college of medicine and a college of nursing and health sciences named for a husband and wife.

“Nurses have made a difference in my life,” said Nicole Wertheim. “I am overjoyed to be able to support them and help future generations of nurses and health practitioners be the best healers they can be.”

Ora Strickland, dean of the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences, said the gift and its provisions are also a strategic part of the college’s comprehensive five-year business plan to expand its graduate programs and research portfolio, while further positioning the college as a solutions center for healthcare and the local community.

Nearly 3,000 students are currently enrolled at the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and in the past five years alone more than 2,375 graduated from the college in fields including nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, athletic training, speech language pathology, and health services administration.

“This gift is a tremendous opportunity for us to further increase the quality and breadth of the college, and change the way healthcare is not only practiced, but taught to future generations of nurses and health practitioners,” Strickland said. “What an amazing legacy created by an amazing couple.”

Additionally, Strickland said the gift will help recruit and retain nationally recognized researchers and leaders in nursing and health sciences education, attract and enroll outstanding students in the college’s Ph.D. and other doctoral programs, strengthen its graduate educational programs, and support the scholarly activities of its faculty and students.

The gift will also establish the Nicole Wertheim Endowment for Nursing and Health Sciences Education and Research, and the Nicole Wertheim Nursing and Health Sciences Scholarship Endowment.

FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg said the Wertheims are an integral part of both FIU’s history, and its next horizon.

“The Wertheims’ commitment and inspiring vision has extended across our university and improved the education for thousands of FIU students,” he said. “This gift to the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences will make a remarkable difference in the education we are able to deliver to future generations of health care leaders.”

The Wertheim family’s leadership at FIU also extends to the next generation, with Herbert and Nicole’s daughters Erica Wertheim Zohar and Vanessa Von Wertheim joining the college’s advisory board to ensure continuity and commitment. Both Wertheim daughters have extensive business and nursing industry backgrounds and expertise. Additionally, Nicole Wertheim has been named honorary chairwoman of the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

The gift was announced today at a meeting where Herbert and Nicole Wertheim participated remotely from The World residential ship sailing near Greece. A festive commemoration of the college naming and the Wertheim gift will be made during an Oct. 19, 2013 gala to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the founding of nursing programs at FIU.

Dr. Wertheim, an inventor, scientist, and educator, was invited and inducted as a member of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans in 2011. He said his support of FIU mirrors the Association’s mission to provide scholarship assistance to deserving young people who have demonstrated integrity, determination in overcoming adversity, academic potential and the personal aspiration to make a unique contribution to society.

One of his hopes is that Horatio Alger scholarship students will choose to continue their graduate education at FIU, particularly within the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences or the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, which was founded in 2009.

Among FIU’s most dedicated supporters, the Wertheims and their Dr. Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Family Foundation have made many contributions to the university since 1988 when Dr. Wertheim joined the FIU Foundation Board of Directors.

Their involvement also includes Dr. Wertheim serving on FIU’s Board of Trustees; helping to build the Wertheim Conservatory and Lecture Hall; creating a visiting professorship in the College of Business; establishing the Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center; and constructing the concert hall’s extraordinary pipe organ, named in memory of Dr. Wertheim’s late mother, Sydell Ida Wertheim.

In 2009, the Wertheims announced a $20 million gift to the FIU College of Medicine, the largest cash donation in university history. The gift was eligible for the State of Florida’s Major Gifts Challenge Grant Program, making its total impact $40 million. In recognition, the college was named the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. The FIU Board of Trustees also named him founding chairman of the medical school and Trustee Emeritus.

Now, four years later, through perseverance and hard work, dreams of being doctors have become a reality for FIU’s first class of medical graduates, who received 100 percent residency match earlier this spring.

The Wertheims and their foundation have supported hundreds of additional educational and healthcare initiatives in South Florida and around the globe for more than 30 years.