Moulton establishes scholarship fund to honor mother, aunt
May 25, 2015
Memorial Day is always an appropriate time to remember the patriotism and service of U.S. veterans.
Susanne (Sandy) Moulton, JD, MPH, adjunct associate professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Public Health Leadership Program, recently ensured that two veterans whose lives and service she greatly admires will be remembered for many years to come.
Moulton – alumna, longtime friend and donor, and former interim director (2014-2015) of the School’s Advancement office – has established a scholarship fund to honor her mother, Susanne Lynas Moulton, and her aunt, Jean C. Lynas. The sisters were lieutenants in the U.S. Army Nursing Corps during World War II.
Susanne and Jean were naturalized American citizens, having emigrated as young women from Scotland to the U.S. Although they maintained a lifelong pride in their Scottish heritage, they immediately embraced their new country and its opportunities by becoming registered nurses.
After finishing nursing school, Jean moved from Connecticut to New York City to begin her career. Younger sister Susanne, who followed shortly after, worked at Bellevue Hospital and as a public health nurse in Harlem, where she met a number of jazz and literary figures from the Harlem Renaissance. She took classes at New York University and collaborated on research studies later used by Jonas Salk in his development of the polio vaccine.
Moved by a sense of patriotism and gratitude, the Lynas sisters volunteered for military service when the U.S. became involved in the war. Jean, one of only a handful of women who served as Army nurses in the Pacific, was stationed in New Zealand, China, India and in the China-Burma-India theatre, caring for recently released prisoners of war.
Susanne served in North Africa, where she met and fell in love with fellow soldier John Moulton. Their unit was sent to Italy, and on Dec. 26, 1944, the two were married by the Archbishop of Lucca. Susanne remained dedicated to nursing. A number of years later, back in the U.S., she began (and completed) a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in nursing education at Duke University, even as the mother of three young children. (Later, she had a fourth child.)
Inspired by the sisters’ devotion to nursing as a vocation and their fearlessness in traveling the world in the service of public health, Sandy Moulton and her husband Tom Wong established the Lynas Sisters Endowed Scholarship. The fund is designed to support Gillings School students with a background in nursing or other direct clinical care, especially those who are active military personnel or veterans.
Moulton said there were several reasons she and her husband established the scholarship, not the least of which is the joy they always derive from meeting the student recipients and hearing their passionate descriptions of careers they want to develop and work they want to accomplish. (The couple funded their first scholarship at the Gillings School in 2001.)
“My mother and aunt would be so honored to have known this legacy exists for them,” Moulton said. “Nursing was a huge part of their lives, and they would enjoy the thought of helping others who wanted to pursue the career that both of them loved so deeply.”
Moulton believes her gift also is an important legacy for the Gillings School.
“UNC’s public health school really was built on the devotion of nurses,” she said. “Public health nursing (PHN) was one of the first departments in the School, which reflected how much nurses were needed and valued in North Carolina in the 1940s and beyond. In the early years, public health nurses traveled around the state, educating and caring for the needs of people who otherwise would never have come in contact with a health professional. PHN continued as a department in the School until the 1990s, and we still offer a certificate in occupational health nursing through the Public Health Leadership Program.”
Moulton tells a poignant story that ties together her admiration for her mother and aunt with her childhood enjoyment of a television program produced by UNC drama alumnus, Andy Griffith:
Griffith purposely chose characters for his show that were based on real people in a small North Carolina town – the sheriff, the barber, the mechanic, etc.
In the back of my mind, it had registered that several of his own character’s girlfriends were public health nurses. They engaged Andy in some public health task (convincing someone back in the hills to take a vaccination, for instance), but then they always left after an episode or two because they were so busy with their work. Andy may have been getting serious, but off the nurse would go, to save someone else.
When I was older and understood the full import of my mother’s and my aunt’s dedication – especially at a time when there were so few career opportunities for women – I sought out the show again and indulged in a Mayberry bingefest. I could really recognize those nurses who chose to leave Andy’s charms for a life of service to others. As a UNC grad, Griffith knew those women, too – they were his classmates from the public health school.
Watch “The County Nurse” (1962), an episode of The Andy Griffith Show.