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HomeEducationAustin Peay State University's anonymous donor Evelyn McCampbell, A Legacy of Giving

Austin Peay State University’s anonymous donor Evelyn McCampbell, A Legacy of Giving

Austin Peay State University (APSU)

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – The name “Jane Doe” sounds a bit impersonal, so for years, one of the Austin Peay State University (APSU) anonymous donors was known simply as “Ms. Jane.”

This alias was often whispered in the Austin Peay State University Advancement Office, as if the staff worried they were revealing too much of her identity, and it wasn’t unusual for students to cry when mentioning her name.

The late Evelyn McCampbell ("Ms. Jane") in her nursing uniform. Austin Peay State University's anonymous donor.
The late Evelyn McCampbell (“Ms. Jane”) in her nursing uniform. Austin Peay State University’s anonymous donor.

“I met Ms. Jane a while later, and she is amazing,” Sarrah Goudreau (’14), a former APSU nursing student, said. “I was a nontraditional student with two kids. I have no family here. It was rough. For somebody to say, ‘Here you go.’ I can’t even explain it.”

Goudreau wept in the Advancement Office that day, five years ago, when she received a scholarship, endowed by Ms. Jane, that provides single parents with $3,000 to earn a degree.

In December 2017, this anonymous donor passed away, and the University community learned the real name of its mysterious benefactor — Evelyn Jane McCampbell.

“When I think about what she did anonymously, when I look at the magnitude of what she’s done for Austin Peay State University, I want everyone to know about her generosity and selflessness,” Laurie Vinson, McCampbell’s friend and financial adviser, said.

The real “Ms. Jane”

Evelyn Jane McCampbell was born June 4th, 1931, in Jackson, Tennessee, and after an impressive high school career — she was on the National Honor Society — she enrolled at Lipscomb University. A few years later, she headed south to Memphis to study at the University of Tennessee Nursing School. That’s where she met Dr. Frank G. McCampbell Jr., her husband and partner for 40 years.

The late Evelyn McCampbell ("Ms. Jane").
The late Evelyn McCampbell (“Ms. Jane”).

Frank, an obstetrician, set up a small practice in Clarksville, with his wife as chief nurse and, after she earned a business administration degree from Union University, manager of the medical office.

Together, the couple helped deliver hundreds of children in Clarksville-Montgomery County, but the McCampbells never had any children of their own. Instead, they invested in the community.

“She offered advice, compassion and support to many community women during those years,” the Signature HealthCARE Hall of Fame entry on Ms. Jane states. “Evelyn became a longtime member of the University of Tennessee Extension’s Home Demonstration Club to help rural women learn to store food and other effective ways to provide for their families suffering from poverty.”

When Frank passed away, leaving his wife with a large estate, she developed an estate plan to continue helping young people in the area. That’s when Evelyn McCampbell became Austin Peay’s Ms. Jane. She initially established a nursing scholarship and a special education scholarship, but she wanted to do more.

Through the Community Foundation, she developed the McCampbell Helping Hands Fund, with Austin Peay State University as a major benefactor. Because of her, a substantial check is sent to the University every year to fund scholarships for multiple individuals.

“This was most beneficial in helping me achieve my goal in completing my degree,” Ciara Buxton, a special education major and scholarship recipient, said. “I received a partner in my education. Thank you for believing in me, and thank you for investing in me.”

Evelyn McCampbell
Evelyn McCampbell

McCampbell wanted her estate to go to something meaningful, to provide a better life for local families. Each year, she looked forward to meeting students at Austin Peay’s Annual Scholarship Dinner. She shared their excitement for the future, and she later confided to Vinson that these scholarships were the one thing she was most proud of in her life.

“Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t be able to afford to finish school,” Shamika Moss, nursing student and scholarship recipient, said. “Three children and divorced. It means a lot financially.”

Again, there are tears.


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