Since 1986, the Vicksburg Medical Foundation has been providing scholarships to Hinds students enrolled in the Associate Degree Nursing program.
Thousands of students have benefited in the nearly 40 years since then.
“Our real focus over the years has been to provide scholarships for students who are pursuing or intend to pursue some medically related field,” said retired banker Hal Gage of Vicksburg, long-time chairman of the Foundation.
Gage has close ties with Hinds: he has served on the Hinds Community College Foundation Board of Trustees and was named the Alumni Service Award recipient in 2013. As a long-time member of the Vicksburg Medical Foundation Board of Trustees, and former Hinds Foundation Board member, Gage has played a key role in securing more than $2.5 million for the college’s Foundation.
The Vicksburg Medical Foundation awards a grant to Hinds Foundation each year; the Foundation then selects the students to receive the scholarships. Each fall the Hinds Foundation hosts a reception that allows Gage and other Vicksburg Medical Foundation board members to meet the Hinds scholarship recipients.
“It’s given me the chance over the years to visit with some of the students. Being able to meet and talk with the students who receive these scholarships is probably the best part of doing this for me,” Gage said. “I’m convinced we do good in some peoples’ lives.”
Raymond native Madison Curtis (2021) received a scholarship from the Vicksburg Medical Foundation. She is now a registered nursing working the night shift at Baptist Medical Center’s pediatric unit.
“The scholarship helped me focus on school without having to worry about getting a job and maintaining a job. I definitely would have struggled more if it wasn’t for the scholarship. I’m very grateful for it,” she said.
The Vicksburg Medical Foundation grew out of the sale of a local hospital that three doctors founded in the 1930s. One of the doctors was Dr. W.K. Purks, whose son Bob is vice chairman of the Vicksburg Medical Foundation Board. The other two were Dr. Willard “Jack” Parsons and Dr. I.C. Knox Jr.
In the 1950s the three doctors decided to turn the hospital into a nonprofit. In 1982 they sold the hospital, which is now the Merit Health River Region. The proceeds from the sale created the Vicksburg Medical Foundation.
In 2014, the name of the Hinds scholarship was changed to honor Philip B. Watson Jr.,“in recognition of 37 years of service to the Vicksburg Medical Foundation Board of Trustees and his steadfast support of the Hinds Community College Nursing Program.”