Alumni to donate $25,000 if 250 people donate to VUSN on Giving Day April 4

Two Vanderbilt University School of Nursing alumni, Tom Christenbery, PhD’04, MSN’87, and Benjamin Smallheer, PhD’11, MSN’04, have pledged $25,000 to the school if 250 individuals make gifts to VUSN on Vanderbilt’s Giving Day, Thursday, April 4.

Tom ChristenberyThe challenge gift is part of Vanderbilt’s Giving Day, the annual 24-hour period in which all Vanderbilt alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends are asked to make a gift of any size to the university school or area of their choice.

Last year, 220 individuals donated to VUSN on Giving Day. Smallheer and Christenbery want to see the school top that number by having 250 people give.

Christenbery is a professor in the School of Nursing and director of program evaluation.

He said that his support of the school ties directly back to his goals as an educator.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.’ I admire that quote because it accurately describes what a VUSN education provides students,” Christenbery said. “Honoring the knowledge and spirit of students prepares them to be the best of all possible advanced nurse practitioners, researchers, educators and leaders in health care. Gifts to VUSN help sustain this important endeavor, which is now continuing into its second century.”

Benjamin SmallheerSmallheer is an assistant professor at Duke University School of Nursing. “Of all my educational experiences, my time at Vanderbilt had the most significant impact on both my personal and professional development. The lasting relationships I developed with friends and faculty have continued with me into my career,” he said. “Giving back is my way to help ensure others have the opportunity to experience the coaching and mentoring I experienced. Giving is how I pay it forward.”

Dean Linda D. Norman, DSN, FAAN, the Valere Potter Menefee Professor of Nursing, thanked Christenbery and Smallheer for their generosity and support.

“This unexpected and generous challenge provides the VUSN community with an opportunity to see their individual gifts have a huge impact on student education,” Norman said. “I want everyone to know that their gifts — whatever they can give, no matter the size — are critically important. Each and every gift matters on Giving Day — and their gift may be the one that counts as No. 250 and unlocks that $25,000 gift from Ben and Tom.”

To help VUSN earn the $25,000 on April 4, go to and Give4theGold.