Tenelle Clark, a first-generation college student from Summit County with an undergraduate degree in nursing, didn’t even consider applying to a private school for postgraduate education because of the expense.

But a Case Western Reserve University financial-aid adviser contacted Clark to let her know she would likely be eligible for special scholarships in the health sciences supported by Hudson residents Ralph T. and Esther L. Warburton through their foundation. Attending Case Western Reserve would actually cost less than her public-school options.

"It caught me by complete surprise," she said. "It definitely seemed too good to be true."

It wasn’t.

Clark graduated in May 2019 with master’s and post-master’s degrees from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. She’s now a registered nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit of Akron Children’s Hospital and also works as a nurse practitioner at New Horizons Psychiatric Services in North Canton.

Similar student success stories are sure to come: The Ralph T. and Esther L. Warburton Foundation has pledged another $3 million to Case Western Reserve to establish three endowed scholarships — one each in the School of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine and Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

"This gift is a transformational catalyst for interprofessional education that will make a significant impact on health-sciences education," said Case Western Reserve President Barbara R. Snyder.

This latest gift follows nearly $3 million the Warburton Foundation committed in 2015 that built significantly on a smaller earlier scholarship gift—pledged by leaders of the foundation whose parents had a long, extensive connection to the university. The overall support for these scholarships now totals $6 million.

"We feel that we’ve honored them properly by this," said Sally Bonacker Warburton, who leads the foundation with her husband Phillip Warburton. "I think it touches the most people we could possibly touch. We also had in mind creating a feeder system to give back to Northeastern Ohio — to continue to produce well-qualified, talented medical people for this area."

The scholarships are intended for students from Stark and Summit counties, with the hope of creating a pipeline of health-care providers to Northeast Ohio hospitals. The scholarships are intended for students from middle-income families who wouldn’t quality for need-based aid, yet don’t have other family resources to cover tuition.

"Not only has the Bonacker-Warburton scholarship that I have received provided financial relief," said fourth-year dental student Nathan Andrasik from Hudson, "but the consistent support and confidence that the Warburton family has had in me over the past three years has inspired me to push through the trials of dental school and inspired me to become the best dentist I can be."

If no student is eligible for the scholarships from those counties, the criteria can be expanded more broadly to Northeast Ohio. Since 2015, more than 30 medical, dental and nursing students have received scholarship support.

More specifically, the Warburton Foundation gift will add:

* $1 million to the existing Ralph T. and Esther L. Warburton Scholarship Fund for graduate students pursuing a doctor of medicine degree from the School of Medicine;

* $1 million to the existing Bonacker-Warburton Scholarship Fund in Dental Medicine for graduate students pursuing a doctor of dental medicine degree; and

* $1 million to the existing Lewis-Schlitz Scholarship Fund in Nursing for students pursuing a graduate-level degree from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

The family’s connection to the university traces back almost 90 years: Phillip Warburton’s father, Ralph, graduated from Case Western Reserve’s medical school in 1933; Sally Bonacker Warburton’s dad, Herbert Bonacker, earned a degree in dental medicine that year.

Each of their fathers married a graduate of the Mt. Sinai School of Nursing, a university affiliate at that time. Ralph Warburton and his wife, Esther Lewis, set up a medical practice in his hometown of North Canton. Herbert Bonacker’s wife, Elisabeth Schiltz, first served as a United Airlines’ stewardess (the title used at the time for flight attendants) as commercial air travel was just beginning. Planes then were much smaller and prone to crashes, so United required stewardesses to be nurses — in part to calm passenger fears about the dangers of flight. She ultimately left the job and returned to Northeast Ohio to marry Herbert.

"The fact that both sets of parents, in one way or another, attended the three schools (medical, dental, nursing) is significant and probably very rare," said Phillip Warburton, foundation president. "My parents were very modest, humble people. They were always looking to help other people, and that’s what all these (health) disciplines should be practicing. It’s service above self, that’s what it is."