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When Sharon Holland-Burns’ roof sprouted a leak, she replaced the roof herself. When she wanted to learn to fly an airplane, she purchased a plane and hired an instructor. When she wanted to become a nurse, she put herself through college and nursing school while raising two children as a single mother.
Holland-Burns is now the namesake of a TCC Foundation memorial scholarship in nursing, started by her husband, Bill Burns. In 2010, Holland-Burns died at age 59 after a lengthy battle with adrenal cancer. “My wife was an incredibly strong woman and an advocate for women’s health,” said Burns, who lives in Colleyville. “I knew I had to find a way to honor her and all of her contributions.”
The Burns were first introduced by friends in 1999. Years earlier, Holland-Burns had moved to Texas from Portales, N.M. She worked as head of nursing at a Denton hospital before becoming a nurse practitioner, serving 15 years. The couple got engaged in 2003, one month before Holland-Burns was diagnosed with cancer, and wed in a small ceremony before she underwent surgery. Doctors then gave Holland-Burns 18 months to live. She would live for seven years.
The couple spent her remaining years enjoying time with children, Shane Foster and Monica Rachel, and their grandchildren, and traveling the world. Holland-Burns visited 13 countries and more than 75 cities. Favorite spots included New York, Italy, Hawaii and Seattle.
As his wife’s health worsened, Burns pondered a way to honor her. She cared deeply about women’s health issues and helping the underserved. “She felt a calling to help people,” Burns said. “She wanted to do something beneficial for mankind, and was drawn to nursing.”
When Holland-Burns died in 2010, the family began to study area nursing schools to fund a scholarship. Attracted to the relatively small size and student-centered atmosphere, the family selected TCC. The Sharon Holland-Burns Memorial Nursing Scholarship is now given each year to a nursing student, with preference given to those who want to pursue careers in women’s health and are single parents. The scholarship is renewable for up to six semesters.
Liz Sisk, donor relations officer for the TCC Foundation, said Burns is passionate about honoring his wife and her work, attending annual dinners and making an effort to meet scholarship recipients.
The first recipient, Faith Bonokoski, graduated. The second, Kathy Birt, renewed the scholarship for fall 2013, graduated December 2013, and is pursuing a BSN degree. A fall 2013 recipient, Nanda Reamy, is scheduled to renew the award for the 2014-15 academic year. The fourth recipient will be named by the scholarship selection committee this summer. The family plans for the scholarship to eventually become an endowment.
Burns retired in 2011 as manager of flight training for American Airlines, and now serves as an adviser to TCC's aviation program, as well as a member of the college's scholarship selection committee.