Jim and Nancy Conkey began their nursing scholarship at Western Nevada College in 2017. Representing important aspects from both their careers, the generous scholarship is awarded to one nursing student per class and covers their expenses through their entire two-year program.
The Conkeys both had exceptional careers, contributing greatly to Northern Nevada. Jim taught anatomy and physiology for 30 years, challenging pre-nursing students to think critically in order to become the kind of nurses he could trust to do well in their profession. Nancy was the first APN (Advanced Practice Nurse) to be licensed in Nevada, paving the way for those who followed. She enjoyed a 50-year career in nursing, including 36 years as an APN in adult health. Jim had been a senior administrator at WNCC in 1974 when the college’s new campus opened in Carson City. Jim’s daughter, Karen Blasius, graduated from WNC’s nursing program. In addition, he was very proud when his daughter, Jayna Conkey, followed in his footsteps and began teaching at WNC as a graphic design professor.
Jayna and her husband, Chris Ryan, who is a geography professor at WNC, provided regular updates that gave Jim and Nancy first-hand insight into the strides that Western Nevada College was making.
“Each time we visited campus, we were more impressed by how innovative WNC had become. This was a deciding factor in creating the scholarship,” Nancy said.
Jim Conkey passed away on February 17, 2020, at the age of 88. Jim led an extraordinary life, dedicated to helping others. In addition to his career in education, he spent six years as a Naval officer in EOD and Nuclear Weapons. When Jim was 26 years old he earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal awarded by President Eisenhower for heroic service in the line of duty during a classified Cold War incident involving a hydrogen bomb. That harrowing experience influenced the rest of his life in terms of focus, excellence and attention to detail regardless of the task at hand.
Jim was a selfless crusader who gave tirelessly to causes such as civil rights, environmental issues and HIV education. In his 80s, he taught science in elementary school classrooms and coached Girls on the Run. Jim was an avid athlete and at the age of 75 began swimming competitively with the master swimmers and was a national champion at the age of 83. He was also an avid cyclist, biking up to 30 miles at the age of 86.
Jim had many accomplishments and honors, but nothing made him prouder than the achievements of his children Sue Boroughf, John, James, Kurt and Chris Conkey, Karen Blasius, Jayna Conkey, Mary Murphy and Tracy Busch. These children along with their spouses and 17 grandchildren were his greatest challenge and his greatest joy.
Through the Jim and Nancy Conkey Nursing Scholarship, Jim and Nancy will continue to touch lives and help students well into the future.