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Helen Duff Reagan, Kate Paul and CU Nursing student Liat Greenwood Chernoff

Scholarship Honors One Nurse’s Legacy, Helps Future Nurses

Retired healthcare exec Kate Paul establishes fund to evoke her mother’s values

minute read

Written by Bob Mook on September 27, 2022

Helen Duff Reagan passed away in 1992, but her spirit lives – thanks to a scholarship established by her daughter, retired healthcare executive Kate Paul.


Helen Duff Reagan and Kate Paul as a baby

“My mother graduated from nursing school in 1940, but she was so much more than a nurse,” Paul says. “She was very devoted to her patients. When we went grocery shopping in Santa Barbara (California), pretty much every woman in that store knew my mother. Her biggest concern later in life was that empathy would be lost in nursing, so I established the scholarship to recognize the need for empathy to remain in nursing.”

Paul will share her late mother’s wit and wisdom as a special guest at the University of Colorado College of Nursing’s Scholarship Luncheon, Sept. 29, at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The luncheon celebrates the impact of philanthropy by acquainting scholarship donors with outstanding scholarship recipients and student awardees for the 2022-23 year.

With two gifts totaling $30,000, Paul established the Helen Duff Reagan Memorial Scholarship Fund seven years ago to benefit students enrolled at CU College of Nursing and to keep her mother’s legacy alive.

“It’s all about honoring her. I am thanking her in a way that I thought would be meaningful to her,” she says. “It’s not a scholarship that is going to make or break anybody’s life. It’s just helpful support.”

A woman ahead of her time

Growing up in Southern California in the 1950s and 1960s, Paul says her mother’s powerful influence remains with her 30 years after her death.

“She worked from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. throughout my childhood,” Paul says. “The reason she worked that shift was so that she could be home to send us to school and so we could be home before she went back to work.”

While Paul describes her father as a “very fundamentalist Catholic,” her mother was a self-described “Chinese-menu Catholic” who challenged the gender norms of the era and encouraged her daughters to do the same.

“She was a woman who was way ahead of her time,” she says. “She was very outspoken and funny. She also had a very interesting view of what women could achieve. Her attitude was ‘You can do anything you want to do, so just go ahead and do it.’”

As a labor and delivery charge nurse in the 1950s and 1960s and as a natural childbirth educator, Paul’s mother was very much in the front lines of the baby boom.

“They had about 20 deliveries a night at the hospital. She’d come home with stories about what went well and how things didn’t go well,” she says. “One day, she came home with a chunk torn out of her arm. A lady decided she wanted to leap from the labor room window. What kept her from doing that was my mother holding her down with her forearm across her chest. And the woman bit her!”

As a teenager, Paul says she was inclined to take what was considered a more traditional route at the time.

“I wanted to marry my truck driver boyfriend and live happily ever after,” she recalls. “Mom wasn’t having any of that, so she packed me up and shipped me off to UCLA.”

Paul’s storied career


Kate Paul

In large part due to her mother’s influence, Paul says she maintained an interest in healthcare – a field that she ultimately gravitated to as an adult.

“When I worked for Kaiser (Permanente), I began to realize that with an interest in medicine and head for business my best bet was in hospital administration,” she says. “So I went to [University of California] Berkeley and got a master’s degree in public health with a major in hospital administration, and ended up back in Kaiser.”

She held multiple senior management positions for 30 years, serving as a regional president of Kaiser, where she was headquartered in Aurora (Colorado), from 1982 to 1997. Returning from an early retirement, she led Delta Dental of Colorado for 16 years before retiring for real at the end of 2016.

Paul now serves on four boards of directors and enjoys traveling.

“I finished my travel bucket list at the end of 2019, thank god,” she says. “I’ve got places I want to go, but my bucket list was all 50 states and all seven continents and 110 countries at least once.”

Though she’s seen and accomplished much, Paul would still like to fly in a fighter jet in her lifetime.

The circle of giving and gratitude

Paul says she looks forward to sharing stories about her mother in front of other philanthropists and nursing students at the Sept. 29 luncheon. In previous years, she’s met with recipients and found them to be appreciative of the gift, and for her mother’s value of empathy.

“My mother’s concern was that as nursing became more and more scientific, nurses were losing the ability to relate to and connect with their patients in an empathetic way,” she says. “I decided to set up this scholarship to recognize her and also to help support her idea that empathy doesn’t get lost in nursing.”


Liat Greenwood Chernoff, BSN, RN recipient of Helen Duff Reagan Memorial Scholarship

Liat Greenwood Chernoff, BSN, RN, received $2,700 from the Helen Duff Reagan Memorial Scholarship for 2022-23. A student in CU Nursing’s Nurse-Midwifery (NMW) Program, she’ll finish her MSN in December but will continue to work toward earning her DNP afterwards.

Chernoff says the scholarship has allowed her to travel outside of Boston (where she resides) to participate in clinical rotations with the Hasidic Jewish community.

“A core value in midwifery is providing respectful and equitable care to all,” she says. “Because of my shared background with these women, I connected with them deeply and helped provide the best care possible. I am grateful that this scholarship recognizes that future midwives should be as diverse as the communities we serve.”

Though Chernoff will not be present for the Sept. 29 luncheon, she expressed special words of gratitude for Paul:

“Thanks to your generosity, I have been able to fulfill my professional dreams,” she says.

Make a difference by giving to the CU College of Nursing Scholarship Fund or make a gift in honor of someone. Students can learn more about scholarship opportunities at CU Nursing.

Topics: Students, Giving