Paying It Forward

Forefront, Winter 2021

Double alumna and associate professor Valerie Boebel Toly’s successful career started with a scholarship.

Headshot of Valerie Boebel Toly smiling.

Many Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing students know Valerie Boebel Toly, PhD, RN, CPNP, for her impact in the classroom, where the associate professor teaches courses on topics such as nursing theory and pediatric primary care.

Others know her for her work as an esteemed researcher, as she studies how to enhance the physical and mental well-being of parents caring at home for children who depend on life-saving medical technology.

But they may not know the double alumna’s other contributions to the School of Nursing: Every year since graduating from the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, Toly (NUR ’90; GRS ’09, nursing) has given to the university’s annual fund to support the student experience.

Her reasons for giving to Case Western Reserve are many—but first and foremost because someone else’s contributions propelled her career.

“I received a generous award from the Independence Foundation that made it financially possible for me to attend this prestigious university,” Toly recalled of the scholarship that allowed her to join the MSN program.

As a graduate student, Toly benefited from “thoughtful and strategic mentorship” with faculty and the opportunity to conduct critical research—experiences that helped her earn a post-graduation position at Vanderbilt University as project director on an R01 grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Four years later, Toly returned to the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing as an instructor, teaching in the MSN and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner programs. Over the years, her passion for research was reignited, and she enrolled in the PhD in Nursing program—where, again, she found smart, strong mentors, including current School of Nursing Dean Carol Musil, with whom she still works on research projects.

“They all encouraged and guided me in discovering my life’s research mission,” Toly said.

This mission has led to significant findings—and funding, including her current four-year, $2.2 million grant from the NINR to learn how parents can best deal with the stress of caring for children who must survive on feeding tubes, ventilators and other medical equipment.

Toly’s research—on which she regularly incorporates some of the nearly 50 undergraduate and graduate nursing students she has mentored—has had national and international impact, exemplified by her induction in 2020 as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

Yet Toly continually thinks back to where she began at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing—as an MSN student on a scholarship—and how she can help others launch their careers and find their missions.

“CWRU has played a tremendous role in shaping my life and career trajectory,” Toly said. “And while I can never repay those faculty members who inspired and helped shape me into the teacher and nurse-scientist I am today, I choose to give whatever I can and pay it forward.”

—Emily Mayock

Support Students

To contribute to the annual fund and help current and future Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing students, visit