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Education and UM Provide Two Constants for Stasiak Family

By Jonathan Scott

University of Mississippi

Nancy Stasiak Carden (right), pictured with her husband, Carl, is being honored with a scholarship in her name benefitting Ole Miss School of Education students created by her sister, Dr. Katherine Stasiak Hankins. Submitted photo

Three generations of the Stasiak family are tied together with a dedication to education and a passion for the University of Mississippi. That bond has led to a new scholarship to benefit students in the UM School of Education.

The family’s relationship with Ole Miss began more than 80 years ago when Raymond Stasiak, a native of chilly Buffalo, New York, decided he wanted to attend college in a warmer part of the country.

Stasiak enrolled at UM in 1939 and earned a degree in chemical engineering. Years later, he returned to pursue a doctorate. His two daughters, Nancy Carden and Dr. Katherine Hankins, earned their degrees at UM, as did Katherine’s husband, Dr. Jordan Hankins, and their two children, Nancy and Richard.

Recently, Katherine Hankins honored her sister by creating the Nancy Virginia Stasiak Carden School of Education Scholarship Endowment at Ole Miss with a gift commitment of $62,500. This endowment awards a $2,500 scholarship, for up to eight semesters, to full-time students who are education majors planning to become teachers for children from kindergarten to eighth grade. 

“This scholarship was set up in my sister’s honor because she has been a teacher for 50 years,” Hankins said. “In fact, she’s still teaching kindergarteners in California today.

“My sister has always been my role model and continues to be an inspiration to me.”

The scholarship celebrates the life and work of an alumna who has had a positive impact on generations of students, said David Rock, UM education dean.

“Since she graduated from Ole Miss with an education degree in 1970, Nancy Carden has devoted her life to transforming many lives by being a dedicated and passionate teacher to elementary students,” Rock said. “Nancy is a true testament to our profession. This scholarship will honor her half-century commitment while continuing her legacy as an elementary teacher.”

Carden said her sister’s establishment of the scholarship is an unexpected and humbling honor. The gift also illustrates her sister’s generous nature and their mutual support.

“We are so close, and we love each other dearly,” Carden said. “She’s always been there for me and I for her.”

The recent gift, like the earlier endowment, reflects the Stasiak family’s appreciation of the university’s impact on their lives.

The family established the Ray and Helen Stasiak Chemical Engineering Scholarship nearly 20 years ago to honor their father and mother. Ray Stasiak died in 2005, and Helen in 2016.

Ray Stasiak arrived on campus with few financial resources, lacking the funds for a roof over his head and a bed to sleep in. The out-of-state student’s first home in Oxford was his car.

When university representatives discovered Stasiak’s living conditions, they found space for him to stay in the basement of what was the Old Chemistry Building, now named Brevard Hall and home to the School of Engineering.

“As our dad’s initial experience at Ole Miss shows, our family knows how challenging it can be to pay for college, so if we find we are in a position to help other students in need with a scholarship or other support, we want to do so,” said Hankins, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biochemistry at UM in 1975 and completed her medical degree at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1979.

Her husband, Jordan Hankins, earned a bachelor’s degree in medicine from UM in 1972 and a medical degree from UMMC in 1975. Their daughter, Dr. Nancy Virginia Stewart, earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biochemistry from the university in 2003 and a second bachelor’s degree in German and biological science in 2004. Their son, Dr. Richard Hankins, earned a bachelor’s degree in classics and a second degree in chemistry and biochemistry from Ole Miss, both in 2009.

After Carden obtained a degree in education at UM, she then earned a master’s degree from Old Dominion University. Because her husband, Carl Carden, was a pilot in the U.S. Navy, she worked as a teacher in many places, including Meridian; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and even in Italy. 

She has devoted the past 32 years of her career to teaching kindergarten in California.

After Ray Stasiak earned his UM degree, he joined the U.S. Army and served in Germany during World War II, where he was injured. He later worked as a civilian for the U.S. Air Force for many years before retiring as the director of research and development at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, and as the holder of two Air Force patents. He earned two more master’s degrees during his career.

Ray and Helen Stasiak returned to Oxford, where Ray obtained a doctorate in education from Ole Miss in 1984. He was a professor of chemical engineering at the university for 10 years and eventually served as the School of Engineering’s assistant dean.

The Stasiaks were active in the Lafayette-Oxford-University community. He was honored by the university’s Woods Order for his years as an engineering professor and supporter of the school.

“Our role model is our father,” Hankins said. “He was the first member of his family to attend college and to become a college graduate. He loved Ole Miss and all that it did for him and his family. 

“He was passionate about education and helping others. He and mom passed that on to my sister and me, and now both of our families share these same passions.”

“Daddy just started all of what we’ve been able to accomplish in our lives,” Carden added. “He made sacrifices for us to go to college and when my sister and I were children growing up in Dayton, we couldn’t wait to enroll at Ole Miss.

“So much of what we have and the opportunities we’ve enjoyed in our lives, we owe to the exceptional education and training we received at Ole Miss and the people we met there, as well as to the commitment we, as a family, have for one another.

“Our family feels blessed and wants to share these blessings with others.”

The Nancy Virginia Stasiak Carden School of Education Scholarship Endowment and the Ray and Helen Stasiak Chemical Engineering Scholarship Endowment are open for gifts from individuals and organizations. Checks, with the scholarship name written in the memo line, can be sent to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or give online at https://give.olemiss.edu.

To learn more about providing support to the School of Education, contact Kelly N. Smith Marion, associate director of development, at ksmith13@olemiss.edu or 662-917-2007. To learn more about providing support to the School of Engineering, contact Greg Carter, associate director of development, at gjcarter@olemiss.edu or 662-915-1849.

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