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The Helen Sutherland Nursing Scholarship, for Single Mothers at Boise State University

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Helen Sutherland, mother of BSU student Thomas Sutherland, passed away shortly after her 77th birthday. She was a respected and beloved mother of three sons and grandmother of two boys.

She believed in pursuing her dreams and would have been one of the first female airline pilots back in the 50s if her father had not forced her to drop out of flying lessons because he thought it was not “proper” for a woman to be a pilot.

She began work for Eastern Airlines in the early 1950s. Company policy prohibited flight attendants from being married (or pregnant) back then and she was fired when the company found out she was married and expecting a baby.

Helen Sutherland
Helen Sutherland with Eastern Airlines circa 1952

She gave birth to twin boys and later another son before returning to the airlines with Pan American Airways. She eventually accumulated three decades of airline experience. Divorced before her children started school; one of the things we remember most about her is how hard she worked to make sure we were always safe with a roof over our heads.

Helen loved animals; before her children were born, she had a monkey, lots of song birds, and an iguana. The monkey got jealous when we were born and was adopted by another family. She also loved birds. One year when we had chickens, one of the chicks grew into a rooster. Mom would go out each morning before sunrise and bring the rooster inside so it wouldn’t disturb the neighbors. The rooster would be allowed back outside after 8 am when the neighbors had left for work. Later she raised emus on her property in Texas.

After the airline industry she continued to work for a rental car agency and, later, a retirement home. She always found satisfaction in bringing joy and comfort to other peoples’ lives. She lived the last six years of her life in a nursing home after suffering a stroke during recovery from brain surgery. She was tended by a cadre of nurses in care facilities in Texas, Colorado, and Idaho. She was always a loving person and her beautiful smile warmed the hearts of those around her. One of her nurses told me a couple of days before she died that Mom made her feel so good about coming to work. Yes, that sounds like Mom.

Because of the affectionate care she received from skilled health professionals, and the knowledge that there is a looming nursing shortage in our nation, Helen's sons have decided to establish a nursing scholarship in order to honor her life and spirit. This scholarship is designed for single parents seeking a nursing degree at Boise State University, with preference given to single mothers. She is survived by three sons: Bill and John who live near Houston, Texas, and Tom, who lives in Boise, Idaho, and two grandsons in Texas.

If you would like more information about the scholarship or you would like to contribute to the endowment, contact: Helen Sutherland Nursing Scholarship, attn: Jennifer Neil, 2225 W. University Drive, Boise, Idaho 83706 (208) 426-2927 or Tom Sutherland 12661 N. Schicks Ridge Road, Boise, Idaho 83714 (208) 229-2202.


This article was written by Thomas Sutherland, eldest son of Helen Sutherland, who is a nursing student at Boise State University.

Submitted 03 May 2007

2 May 2016 | Copyright Andrew Heenan | | Privacy