Retiring faculty members come together to create a new endowed PT scholarship

Jeff Verver
March 28, 2022
Debora Brown, David Morrisette, Holly Wise, David Sword, and Sandra Brotherton
L to R: Debora Brown, David Morrisette, Holly Wise, David Sword, and Sandra Brotherton

When the familiar strains of a Beatles song wafted down the hallway, everyone knew that David Morrisette was working in his office. It was a signature moment for the friends and colleagues who worked together in the Division of Physical Therapy

From memories like this of finding joy in teaching and collaborating, a group of five retiring faculty members decided to make their swansong a resounding statement for future physical therapy (PT) students. Collectively they created the Come Together Physical Therapy Endowed Scholarship.

“The Fab Five,” as they like to call themselves (in deference to The Beatles), came up with the idea in the middle of 2021. Sandra Brotherton, PT, Ph.D., Debora Brown, PT, DPT, David Morrisette, PT, Ph.D., David Sword, PT, DPT, and Holly Wise, PT, Ph.D., worked together in the division for decades and knew they would be retiring around the same time. The idea for the scholarship came about during one of their many conversations about mitigating the impact of their retirements on the PT program. 

Four PT faculty members walking across the crosswalk like the Abbey Road cover. 
Dave Morrisette, Sandra Brotherton, Holly Wise, and Debora Brown replicate the iconic Abbey Road cover near the MUSC campus.

As for the scholarship’s name, that was an easy decision. “Come Together” is the lead song on The Beatles’ 1969 Abbey Road album. “Most everyone knows how much Dave [Dr. Morrisette] loves music,” shares Brown. “One of his favorite groups is The Beatles, and he requested a picture of the faculty retiring in 2021 in our version of the ‘Abbey Road’ sidewalk pose for fun. The rest is history!” 

With their contributions pledged and collected, the College of Health Professions (CHP) established the endowment with the hope of it becoming the centerpiece scholarship for the PT program. 

For years, the five faculty members had contributed to the existing PT Scholarship but desired to make a bigger impact on students. “I have donated annually to support the PT Scholarship for nearly 20 years,” says Morrisette. “I remember having students in the program who lived on peanut butter and crackers for weeks at a time. I have received messages from graduates about the burden of loan payments thinking we cannot recruit people who would be really good physical therapists because they cannot afford to attend graduate school or live in Charleston.”

So, instead of competing for donations with the existing PT Scholarship, the CHP Development team suggested combining the two. In doing so, the newly established scholarship grows exponentially through the endowment and will eventually expand to offer multiple awards to multiple students. “My long-term desire is to be able to fund as many scholarships as possible,” shares Brotherton. “Through my role as the admissions coordinator for the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, I observed desirable candidates for our program decline offers for admission in favor of a university that was able to provide financial assistance through endowed scholarships. These factors combined increased my desire to contribute in a way that would benefit students now.” 

The scholarship will provide a $2,000 annual award for a CHP physical therapy student to use toward tuition. Interested students must apply for consideration. Awardees are selected by the CHP Scholarship Committee based on academic performance and financial need. 

“We hope creating this scholarship will allow some of the long-term collegiality and professional commitment to be felt not only the recipients but the entire student body as a whole,” Brown says. “It represents a commitment to them and the physical therapy profession at large!”

While their general sentiment was the same in creating the scholarship, each faculty member has a personal inspiration giving. Wise was inspired by her grandfather, an immigrant who loved the United States and was appreciative of the opportunities given to him here. He founded his own company and believed in giving back. She used Merck stock given to her by her grandparents more than 30 years ago to fund her portion of the scholarship. “My grandparents would be happy to see their Merck stock used for the Come Together Physical Therapy Endowed Scholarship,” she says.

The success and continued growth of the scholarship are very important to “the Fab Five,” not for themselves but for students. “I hate to think of potential students not being able to realize their dream of becoming a PT due to the lack of financial resources. This scholarship provides the opportunity to make that dream happen,” says Sword.

They hope that the award will relieve some of the financial stress of rising education costs and help students recognize the importance of service and the value of giving back to assist others. Morrisette hopes that “recipients will put their education to good use, help people, and have very productive careers. And in turn, support something like this once they get financial stability.”

Brotherton, Brown, Morrisette, Sword, and Wise invite PT alumni to make a gift to the Come Together Physical Therapy Endowed Scholarship