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Oklahoma City Nurse Practitioner Reflects on Scholarship Opportunity that Changed her Life

Ana Garcia was determined to break through the barriers that stood between her and a college education. The youngest of six children born to Mexican immigrants, her family moved to the United States seeking new opportunities. Working hard just to provide for their family, higher education was a luxury they could not afford.

While attending Bethany High School, Ana excelled in school and began to dream of her future.

“I remember asking my high school counselor how I could go to college,” Ana said. “From that point on, I was determined to make straight A’s. I knew I didn’t have room to fail.”

Little did Ana know, her great opportunity would arise from another woman who, decades earlier, had overcome challenges of her own.

Ruth Mershon

Born in 1924, Ruth Mershon wasn’t expected to live past the age of two. Her physical impairments made it difficult to walk or even wear shoes. Through her own tenacity and the support of her family, she not only graduated college in 1945, but also went on to break through a glass ceiling in the medical profession by practicing anesthesiology for 45 years.

“Ruth’s determination helped her overcome many obstacles in life,” said niece Ginny Lawrence. “She believed strongly that hard work reaps rewards, and she wanted to help capable, hard-working students achieve their goals.”

Dr. Mershon died in 2000, and while she and Ana Garcia never met, she gave Ana and many other students an incredible opportunity. Dr. Mershon established the Ruth Mershon Scholarship at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. Since 2000, the scholarship has helped nearly 100 students follow their dreams of going to college.

“This scholarship was life changing. It really validated all of my years of hard work,” said Ana, who is now a nurse practitioner serving families in southwest Oklahoma City. “As a child, I dreamed of working in medicine, and I’m honored to provide quality care for residents in the city I’ve always called home.”

Thanks to the generosity of donors like Ruth Mershon, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation offers more than 150 unique scholarship opportunities for students throughout the state each year. Contact us at 405/235-5603 to learn how you can create a life-changing opportunity through a scholarship fund.

Notable Gift Helps Record Music History

Legendary Oklahoma City blues singer Dorothy Ellis left a charitable gift to perpetuate her impact on Oklahoma history. Photo by Garett Fisbeck/Oklahoma Gazette.

When Dorothy Ellis’ bus pulled into Oklahoma City in 1948, the 13-year-old never imagined she would one day become an Oklahoma legend. Seventy years later, Miss Blues’ impact on music history is remembered thanks to her thoughtful planning and a unique partnership with the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.

Raised on a cotton plantation near Paris, Texas, Dorothy was orphaned at the age of 11. Soon after, she found herself at a bus station buying a ticket to the farthest destination her meager savings could afford – Oklahoma City.

Nicknamed “Miss Blues” at the age of six, Dorothy began singing the blues while working in the Texas cotton fields. She absorbed the soulful sounds of her mother and the other sharecroppers, developing her signature style of “Texas shout” blues.

“Blues has stayed with me at the times when I was all alone,” Ellis once said. “Soon as my mama died, I became a product that nobody wanted. As a consequence, the blues was in my heart, and that’s why I have a passion for it.”

While she performed with a number of bands throughout the years, Miss Blues’ signature howl and spicy lyrics remained the same, earning her a place in the Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame and the moniker, Oklahoma’s First Lady of the Blues.

During her lifetime, Miss Blues enjoyed sharing her living history with audiences through the Oklahoma Historical Society. At her death in 2018 at age 82, Miss Blues had been an integral part of the Oklahoma blues scene for seven decades, recording multiple studio albums, performing at blues festivals across the U.S. and authoring two books.

To ensure her influence on our state’s music history lives on, Miss Blues left a generous gift in her estate. She left the rights to her music and copyrights to her books to the Oklahoma Historical Society, and the sale of her house created an endowment at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation to permanently support African-American and music historical programming and exhibits.

Learn how you can leave a gift like Miss Blues to support your favorite charitable cause.