Wayland confers honorary degree on nurse memorialized with endowed scholarship

SAN ANTONIO — Celebrating her lifelong commitment to nursing and education, Wayland Baptist University on Monday posthumously conferred an honorary Bachelor of Nursing degree on Irene Wilson George, mother of Bertha Mieth.

The surprise presentation came during the grand opening of the recently named Ben and Bertha Mieth School of Nursing at Wayland’s San Antonio campus. Announcing the first recipient of the Irene Wilson George Endowed Scholarship in Nursing was part of the ceremony. However, Dr. Bobby Hall, Wayland’s President, presented the honorary degree before announcing the recipient of the scholarship.

“We’ve come to know that Bertha’s mother almost completed her college degree but came up one class short,” he said. “We would like to help her complete that journey.”

With tears, the Mieths accepted the diploma for a person Hall described as “a hardworking woman who loved to help people, especially through her ministry of serving as a licensed vocational nurse.”

Born Aug. 17, 1915, in Avery, her family moved by covered wagon to Paducah in 1921. They were so poor that Irene used cardboard to make soles for her shoes. After completing the 10th grade, she married Charley Lafayette Wilson, Jr. They farmed until 1951, when they moved to Glen Rose.

“Charley died March 8, 1954, so Irene moved back to Paducah, and a year later moved to Lubbock to enroll in Methodist Hospital’s nursing program,” Hall said. “Graduating in 1956, she was one chemistry class short of earning her RN degree. Her need to work superseded completing the class.”

“Working the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift at Methodist Hospital and the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift as a private nurse, Irene carried a well-worn and slightly yellowed Bible in her smock so she could minister to patients,” he said.

A few years into nursing, Graham George, a farmer, and rancher, came under Irene’s care. They became friends, fell in love, and eventually married. She worked at Methodist Hospital until transferring to St. Mary of the Plains Hospital.

“Irene embraced the hard days of nursing, when there were no throw-away syringes, no aides to change sheets, and nurses did everything for patients,” Hall said. “When she was no longer able to ‘pound the floor,’ she transferred to the Psychiatric Department until her retirement in the mid-1980s.”

The President said Irene’s zeal for nursing was matched only by her passion to serve the Lord.

“She instilled in her daughter, Bertha, that you don’t have to have money in your pocket, but you must have the love of Christ in your heart,” he said.