Donations made to Wallace State Nursing in memory of C.J. Burney

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Photo: Suzanne Harbin, left, director of advancement, and Dr. Vicki Karolewics, president of Wallace State Community College, accept donations from Dr. Melvin Smith and Lavell Thrasher in memory of longtime college supporter C.J. Burney. The donations were made on behalf of the Sunday school class at First Baptist Church that Burney attended with Smith and Thrasher, and the Johnson Crossing Water System, for which Burney served as its board chairman, with Thrasher also serving on the board.


HANCEVILLE – Two donations totaling $1,100 were made Thursday in memory of longtime Wallace State Community College supporter C.J. Burney. Burney passed away last month at the age of 90. For years, he provided scholarships to students in the nationally acclaimed nursing program. The money donated will go toward that scholarship fund.

Dr. Melvin Smith and Lavell Thrasher presented $500 and $600, respectively. Smith, a professor emeritus at Samford University, where he taught in the School of Business for more than 20 years, made the donation on behalf of the Sunday school class at First Baptist Church, of which Burney was a member. Thrasher, also a member of the Sunday school class and a Wallace State retiree, made a donation on behalf of the Johnson Crossing Water System. Burney was serving as chairman of the board at the time of his passing, and Thrasher also serves on the board.

“We wanted to come by today in memory of Mr. Burney and in recognition of the standard of excellence that Wallace State Community College continues to demonstrate in all areas, but in particularly today in nursing,” said Thrasher. “Because we’re so proud of the leadership that you’ve taken to achieve this national certification, and we want to support that in memory of Mr. Burney.”

The Department of Nursing Education recently earned the distinction as a Center of Excellence from the National League for Nursing, only the second college or university in the state of Alabama to achieve that distinction.

“We are just so honored that both Johnson Crossing Water System and your Sunday school class would choose to gift Wallace State in memory of Mr. Burney,” said Dr. Vicki Karolewics, president of Wallace State Community College. “He really was a great man. He was very special to me.”

Smith agreed. “He was special to our Sunday school class,” he said. “He was the older person and he always had a smile on his face and wanted to shake hands with you and usually he’d have a little something to say when you left.”

“My favorite story on Mr. Burney is the second time that he went back to Iwo Jima,” Thrasher said. Mr. Burney was a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima. “He enjoyed that trip so much. He showed me a little vial of sand that he picked up on the beach. He said, ‘Lavelle, I enjoyed that second trip so much more than the first. They weren’t shooting at us this time.’”

Thrasher went on to commend the college for providing students with a quality education at an affordable price.

“Wallace State does such a great job in taking kids who might not be able to afford to go to a four-year institution and, at a lower financial obligation, you give the same quality or a superior quality education, and then if they want to move on to a four-year college they can easily do it,” he said.

Suzanne Harbin, director of advancement at Wallace State, expressed her thanks to First Baptist Church of Cullman and the Johnson Crossing Water Department for their donations. “I know that Mr. Burney would be proud to see people he worshipped and worked with carry on with his tradition of support for Wallace State Community College,” Harbin said.

For more information about Wallace State Community College, visit or call 256-352-8000 or toll free at 866-350-9722.