Sally Kirkland Turns a Personal Tragedy into a Blessing for Others

Establishing a scholarship in honor and memory of her daughter and granddaughter has helped Sally Kirkland heal some of her pain while providing support for generations of students to come.

The lives of Sally Kirkland’s daughter Jan and granddaughter Hannah were tragically cut short in 2019, just weeks after she had lost her husband Robert (Bob). With her whole world upside down, Sally did what was best for her well-being – she helped others.

Sally established The Hannah and Jan Kirkland Memorial Scholarship, which provides tuition support to nursing students from Columbiana County. In turn, this gesture of generosity helped Sally.

“I lost my entire family in 10 weeks. I could have traveled Europe or wasted money on superficial things, but I didn’t want to do that,” Sally said. “Helping somebody is a good feeling, and I needed that feeling; having something good come out of something so horrible helped me. I’m grateful I was able to establish this scholarship; it touches my heart to be so blessed to be able to do that.”

For many reasons, Sally knew Kent State University was where she wanted to make an impact on behalf of Jan and Hannah.

“First, we’re kind of a Kent State family,” she said. “Jan and Bob both attended Kent State, and the regional campus system was a true benefit for them."

“My daughter started at the Salem Campus,” Sally continued. “When she was a freshman, she had difficulty with a math course. Her wonderful professor, Peggy Manchester, stayed every evening necessary to help my daughter get through that course. The professor didn’t have to stay after, but she did, and Jan never forgot that."


Sally Kirkland with daughter Jan, granddaughter Hannah and husband Robert (Bob)

“My husband also started at the Salem Campus while an employee at General Motors (GM),” she said. “He also took classes at East Liverpool and Trumbull. He worked full time while completing his degree, so it was very convenient that classes were offered at many different locations and times. He had a good job at GM but was the kind of person who always had a backup plan; earning his degree in case anything ever happened at GM was a backup plan for him. When that came to fruition and the plant shut down, his degree from Kent State helped him tremendously."

"“I was proud of both Jan and Bob,” Sally said. “They were both very good students. It was just nice to see them both pursue something they were passionate about.”

“Jan was a wonderful nurse,” Sally continued. “When she graduated from high school, she knew exactly what she wanted to do and never varied from that. It took her awhile; she started at Kent State but then moved to Florida. She was 29 when she received her degree, but she never lost focus. As a nurse, she always did things not necessarily in the official job description. She would hold the hands of people who had no family, provide comfort when it was needed and always showed personal concern and care for her patients.”

It was a tremendous admiration for her mother and her mother’s dedication to her patients that led Hannah to begin the journey of following in Jan’s footsteps. She unfortunately did not get to complete that journey, but Hannah’s dedication to becoming a nurse was as strong as her mom’s had been.

Inspired by the compassionate lives of her family, Sally not only made a planned gift to fund the scholarship, but also decided to make additional gifts to immediately impact Kent State students. This allows her to see the scholarship awarded during her lifetime, while knowing this legacy for her, Jan and Hannah will continue to be awarded for generations.

“The first scholarship was awarded in Fall 2021, and it’s wonderful to be here and actually see the impact it’s making,” Sally said. “I know how meaningful it can be for students to receive support. When Jan moved south, she continued her nursing education at a private school in Atlanta and had to take out loans. She was 45 at the time of her death but still owed $50,000. While the Atlanta university was a great school, state universities are outstanding as well – and they’re much more affordable. When you add scholarship support on top of that, you relieve even more of that burden for students.”

With more than 82 percent of students requiring financial assistance to complete their degrees, scholarship support has never been more vital. Sally hopes recipients of The Hannah and Jan Kirkland Memorial Scholarship take a moment to remember Jan and Hannah and continue their journeys with gratitude as they go on to become beacons of light for others, just like Jan was… and just like Hannah aspired to be. Sally also hopes they are inspired to pay it forward.

“This scholarship will help them accumulate less debt while they’re working to become a nurse like Jan; a nurse who goes beyond the job description and holds the hands of people who have no family, provides comfort when it’s needed and always shows personal concern and care for their patients,” Sally said. “I hope they someday think about doing the same thing themselves – making a gift to help support and impact even more students, and in turn more patients, for generations to come.”


You can make a donation to The Hannah and Jan Kirkland Memorial Scholarship online or by making a check* out to the Kent State University Foundation and mailing it to: KSU Foundation, Gift Processing, 350 S. Lincoln St., Kent, OH 44242 (*please write "Hannah and Jan Kirkland Memorial Scholarship" in the memo line).

To learn how you can make an impact and leave a legacy while supporting something you believe in, please contact us at or 330-672-1000,  or visit


POSTED: Monday, February 21, 2022 04:25 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2023 10:37 AM