CHP alum creates college’s largest scholarship endowment

Jeff Verver
September 13, 2021
Dean Kapasi and Lisa Montgomery

In the runup to her retirement as MUSC's executive vice president for Finance and Operations, Lisa Montgomery contemplated the next chapter in her life. She thought about how she would make this transition after 30 years and continue to give back to the place where she honed her leadership skills and created life-long friendships. For her, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) is more than the place she built her career – it's also her alma mater.  

Montgomery is a 1993 graduate of the Master in Health Administration (MHA) program. "I have a particular fondness for the MHA program, which years ago increased my knowledge of the health care landscape," she said. Her experience in the program prompted her to set up her first gift to the College of Health Professions in 2017. She has since increased her planned gift to $1 million and made a cash commitment, supplemented by her family, friends and colleagues' generosity to create the Lisa Montgomery Endowed Scholarship. Her planned gift will eventually make it the largest endowed scholarship fund in the college. 

Montgomery wanted her gift to provide opportunities for students seeking to make a tangible difference in health care. Beginning in the 2022-23 academic year, the Lisa Montgomery Endowed Scholarship fund will award up to five $2,000 scholarships per year to students with demonstrated financial need. Eligible students will be enrolled in a Department of Healthcare Leadership and Management program, including the Doctor of Health Administration (DHA), Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI), MHA, or dual-track clinical/administrative programs.

"This gift changes the landscape of our program and allows us to provide desperately needed financial support for students who will serve their communities for years to come," said Abby Swanson Kazley, director of the MSHI program. "An investment in health administration and health informatics is a commitment to improving the delivery of services for all. This money will allow us to train even more leaders."

While Montgomery's cash gift and supplemental $1 million bequest are the largest sources of support for the endowment and evidence of her generosity, the gifts made by others are a testament to her legacy.

With her retirement celebrations set to take place in spring of 2021, Montgomery struck upon the idea of prompting well-wishers to help support the scholarship. "I knew from experience that there would be efforts made to provide me some parting gift from the MUSC family," she said. "Why not get out in front of this effort and direct it toward something that will have a lasting impact?" With the help of Kate Azizi, vice president for Institutional Advancement, Montgomery drafted an appeal asking colleagues to consider giving to the scholarship. The result was a swift and resounding success.

Then following her July 1, 2021 retirement, Montgomery's mother passed away after battling a long illness. As ardent supporters and mentors of Montgomery's career, her mother and late father taught her the value of dedicating efforts to what matters – family, service and a good work ethic. As she prepared for her mother's memorial service, Montgomery gave the option for those wishing to make a tribute to support the scholarship.

She generated 83 donation gifts from friends, colleagues and family between the retirement reception and memorial appeal, totaling nearly $20,000. It was clear that many others believed in Montgomery's vision as well.

"I have always been confident in Lisa’s financial decision making,” said Zoher Kapasi, dean of the College of Health Professions. “Her career is a testament to knowing the landscape and working with leaders capable of progressive change. Seeing so many others step up to support her scholarship truly demonstrates her impact both professionally and personally not only within MUSC, but in the community."

Montgomery has deftly shaped her scholarship for the future of health care and the growth of academic programs within the college. "As a professional, I could both work and be a student while continuing to contribute to MUSC's missions," Montgomery shared of her time in the MHA program.

She and Kapasi recognize the need for health care professionals to be skilled both clinically and administratively and for programs to be accessible for working professionals. All Department of Healthcare Leadership and Management programs are currently offered in an online/hybrid format, making it possible for students to continue to work while they advance their education. Kapasi hopes to increase the college's offerings in the future with more online/hybrid and dual-track and concurrent degree programs.

"Having worked in academic health care for many years, Lisa also sees the importance for health care professionals to encompass both administrative and clinical dexterity," Kapasi said. "I applaud her foresight in recognizing students pursuing degrees in dual-track clinical/administrative programs (e.g., DPT/MHA, OTD/MHA). Her scholarship helps us in shaping and further developing these programs." 

Make a donation in honor of the Lisa Montgomery Endowed Scholarship