Loving Tribute

February 13, 2024
Spiro Vallis left with his scholarship recipient Samantha Bernstein and friend Phyllis Moseley
Spiro Vallis, left, with his scholarship recipient Samantha Bernstein, and friend Phyllis Moseley.

Olimpia “Bia” Vallis fled her home in Antwerp, Belgium, for the safety of the United States during World War I. After eventually settling in Charleston, South Carolina, she took a position as an executive secretary in the MUSC Department of Surgery, a job she truly loved.

Upon her passing, Bia’s son, Spiro, thought about a meaningful way to honor her memory at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). He decided to create a new merit-based scholarship that would support students in the MUSC College of Nursing.

Vallis took two pathways to create his scholarship. First, he worked with the MUSC Office of Planned Giving to make a gift through his estate plans. At the end of his lifetime, this gift will create an endowed scholarship fund that will exist in perpetuity. Additionally, because he wanted to put his gifts to work immediately, he also decided to make annual contributions to provide scholarship support until his planned gift is realized.

The first Olimpia “Bia” Vallis Nursing Scholarship was awarded in 2019 to Samantha Bernstein, then an incoming Ph.D. student. Four more scholarships have been awarded since then. The College of Nursing has prioritized the creation of new scholarships for all its programs as a way of lowering barriers to the profession of nursing. Ph.D. scholarships are a special priority, because nursing schools need more faculty to boost student enrollment and stem the growing nursing shortage.

Thanks to a lot of hard work and the Vallis Scholarship’s financial assistance, Bernstein today is an obstetric nurse and faculty member at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Institute of Health Professions in Boston, where she teaches nursing and conducts research. Currently, she’s studying the workplace conditions of nurses in rural hospitals and why it matters to patient care.

Bernstein was overwhelmed that someone she had never met would want to support her education. “Mr. Vallis's generosity is just incredible,” she said at the time of her award. “It's hard to put into words just how his gift changes my life and the lives of all future expectant mothers I will treat.”

"This scholarship isn't just helping me," she continued. "It is helping the students I will teach, the patients I will treat, and it is helping fund the next generation of nursing research."

Through his will, Spiro Vallis will leave a generous future gift to the Olimpia “Bia” Vallis Nursing Scholarship at MUSC. His planned gift, along with his annual support of the scholarship, makes him a member of both our Legacy and Impact Circles.