May Wykle, dean of the School of
Nursing, and Mike Denekas, circa
2001. Denekas died last year; his
wife passed away in 1994.
Marvin E. "Mike" Denekas spoke often of his beloved "Ruthie"—his wife, Ruth Durr Denekas, a devoted and caring nurse for many years. The 1940 alumna of Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing was just as devoted and caring towards her alma mater, and it's because of that affection that she and Mike left more than $2.3 million to the school to create an endowed chair and scholarship fund.
The Marvin E. and Ruth Durr Denekas Chair was established to support excellence in academic education for nurses, said May L. Wykle, dean of the Bolton School and Florence Cellar Professor of Nursing in making the announcement today. Ruth Durr Denekas died in 1994; her husband died last year. Wykle said that the couple made plans to establish the chair and scholarship funds prior to their deaths so they would know that their hard-earned savings would go to their favorite cause—nursing education.
"We are grateful to the Denekas' for their generous support and extraordinary commitment to advancing nursing education," Wykle said. "I had the pleasure of meeting Mike a few years before he passed away and he spoke fondly of his beloved 'Ruthie' and of the Bolton School. Theirs was truly a love story—not only their strong love for each other, but a love for the profession of nursing."
The Denekas' life together was a love story that spanned five decades. When Ruth Durr enrolled at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing in 1937, she lived next to Gertrude Denekas. In those days, Wykle says, students lived next to each other in alphabetical order. Gertrude's brother, Mike, was an Immigration Border Control Inspector in Buffalo, N.Y., and during a visit to his sister at school, he happened to meet "the girl next door, Ruth Durr," Wykle said. "She was the love of his life."
They married in 1941. Following a stint in the U.S. Navy, the couple returned to Cleveland where Mike attended law school at night and Ruth returned to school to earn her Public Health certificate. At the time, Ruth was employed by the city of Cleveland as a school nurse and was called upon to ride with Cleveland vice detectives working on cases involving female law violators.
Their travels ended when Mike, an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, was transferred to the San Francisco area. In California, Ruth responded to a call for retired nurses to take a refresher course and return to nursing. For her work at Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, in Marin County, Calif., Ruth earned an award for 10 consecutive years as a registered nurse and supervisor.
In April 1986, while planning their retirement to Spring Lake Village, a retirement community in Santa Rosa, Calif., the couple helped to establish, Ruth was stricken with encephalitis and never fully recovered. After battling the disease for nearly nine years, she died December 26, 1994.
Per the couple's request, the balance of the funds will be distributed to the Bolton School to be used for academic scholarships in memory of Ruth's parents, Frederick and Mary Durr.
"Because of Ruth's devotion to nursing and respect for educators, Ruth and Mike made preparations to support nursing education, willing a portion of their estate to the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing," Wykle said. "We're honored to pay tribute to Ruth and Mike and their commitment to nursing education for many years to come."