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The Dean Who Made a Difference

August (Gus) J. Rantz III was at the end of his rope. It was the mid-70s and, like so many other Vietnam War veterans, he was struggling. In Gus’ case, he was struggling to support a wife and two kids while attending nursing school at LSU full time. The bills had piled up and Gus had finally accepted the fact that his dream of entering the nursing profession just wasn’t going to happen. The day he appeared at the door of former Dean Helen Dunn to let her know he was dropping out of nursing school was not a happy one.

Dean Dunn listened to Gus’ story with great interest. “Come back and see me in a week,” she said. Gus couldn’t see how there was anything Dean Dunn could do, but he waited. A week later, Dean Dunn handed him a check for $300, half of the scholarship funds she had available for the year. To Gus, that $300 made the difference between putting an end to his dream and putting food on the table for his growing family. He never forgot it.

Dean Dunn’s belief in Gus was not unwarranted. Gus went on to become a successful nurse anesthetist and co-founder of AMG Integrated Healthcare Management, a suite of 14 long-term acute care hospitals, and two acute rehabilitation hospitals that employ thousands of people who care for critically ill patients in small-town hospitals all over the country.

To honor those who helped him when he needed it the most, Gus gives back by supporting the James and Helen Dunn Endowed Professorship. He is proud to honor the legacy of the former dean who saw the value of a nursing education both as a means of self-improvement and as a way to help others.

What Gus didn’t know back in nursing school was that Dean Dunn was not a stranger to struggle herself. Over the years, Dunn had worked as a hospital floor nurse, a school nurse and as a nurse in a doctor’s office, all the while continuing to go to school. Eleven years after earning her nursing diploma, she earned a college degree. Five years after that she earned a master’s, and 11 years after that, a doctorate in nursing. She, too, had a family to support and knew it wasn’t easy.

 “Dean Dunn believed in me,” Gus said humbly, “And I wanted to give back.”