Shaq’s mama said: Nursing scholarship program is a family affair
Odessa Chambliss was a "humble, loving and generous person," says her daughter, Lucille O'Neal. Upon her mother's death from ovarian cancer in 1996, O'Neal and her three siblings decided to do something to honor her legacy. Later that year, in recognition of their mother's career as a nurse, they launched the Odessa Chambliss Quality of Life Fund, a charitable organization that supports nursing and health care–related causes. The siblings still co-administer it to this day.
“We wanted to honor her legacy by providing scholarship funds to students pursuing nursing careers. My mother’s dream was for everyone who wanted an education to be able to get one, and we’re making that dream a reality.”
“I received so much support and enrichment at the University as a student, I wanted to give back,” she says. She combined her positive experience at the University with the Fund's mission to create opportunities for others.
“When I learned University of Phoenix had a well-regarded nursing program, setting up these scholarships there was really a no-brainer,” says O’Neal. “I consider my education to be one of the great accomplishments of my life, and I want others to share in that opportunity.”
The Fund has been providing scholarships to the University of Phoenix College of Nursing since 2005. The monies are distributed among select nursing students who live in Florida (where the Fund is based) to help defray costs associated with books, laptops, medical supplies and other educational costs not covered by tuition. Funds are raised through special events, such as the annual “Shaq’s Mama Said Knock You Out” celebrity golf tournament and its accompanying Soulful Midday Soiree.
In addition to providing nursing scholarships at a variety of institutions, the Fund supports clinical cancer research, as well as community wellness centers that serve needy populations. “We try to keep things simple and help in our community, just as my mother did,” O’Neal explains.
A perfect fit
O’Neal is not only successful as a management professional and charitable fundraiser; she is also a successful mother, having raised her children to become educated, accomplished adults. You’ve probably heard of her son Shaquille, an international NBA superstar and fellow University of Phoenix graduate. “Shaquille was very instrumental in helping me obtain my college education,” says O’Neal. Her daughter Ayesha Harrison, like Shaq, obtained her MBA from the University.
O’Neal stresses that the skills she learned studying management at the University are essential to her current role administering multiple charitable organizations. And combining education and service, her two great passions, makes for a perfect fit, she says. “Everything I learned via my degree program — communication, organization, leading a team, statistics — I use and apply every day in my charity work,” she says. “To me, book sense plus common sense make perfect sense.”