A legacy of supporting opportunity

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A legacy of supporting opportunity

Sylvia Clark was a community nurse who throughout her life always found ways to help those who needed it, and now her legacy will continue thanks to a generous £50,000 gift from her family to establish the Sylvia Clarke Fund. The fund will support students in the Department of Nursing and Midwifery, the Department of Allied Health Professions, and the Department of Social Work and Social Care and Community Studies through scholarships and bursaries.

Sylvia grew up in a children’s home in Doncaster during the 1940s and 50s, after the death of her mum when she was just seven. Her two brothers placed in a different institution, and while this was not an easy childhood, it forged a character of hard-work, resilience and optimism.

In September 1954, just after her 17th birthday, Sylvia left care and started a pre-nursing course at City General Hospital in Sheffield – a move which gave her a home, life-long friendships and launched a career that was her passion.

The annual pay was just £170, of which £90 was retained for board and lodging. But Sylvia loved this experience and the independence it provided, and it acted as the launchpad for the rest of her life.

Sylvia qualified in 1958 and was awarded one of the nursing prizes. Her family still has all her certificates and hand-written training notes, which she treasured her whole life.
Sylvia Clarke in her nurses uniform

Once qualified, Sylvia’s first job was district nursing in the pit villages around Doncaster. After a break to have her family, she went on to complete Health Visitor training and then worked with deprived communities in West Yorkshire and Cheshire for the rest of her career.

Sylvia’s daughter Alison, who is a former primary school teacher, said: “My mum always worked hard and never stopped believing that she could change her life and make a difference. She was a real champion of the underdog too, both in her professional and her personal life.

“She loved working with families from diverse communities and in areas with high levels of social deprivation. Mum was always on the lookout for somebody who needed a helping hand.”

Outside work, Sylvia was a serial helper, supporting elderly neighbours and community groups. She loved to laugh, sing and dance, and travelled the world with Geoff, her husband of 47 years.

Alison added: “Our hope is that Sylvia’s legacy, through this fund, will be to provide both inspiration and practical support for people, like my mum. People who have faced personal challenges, so that they can go on to establish careers that allow them not only to change their own lives but the lives of those they work to support.”

To find out how you can leave a legacy please contact Grace Brierley, Philanthropy Manager. 

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