Honoring a Beloved Wife & Nurse

(From the top) George Burnet established a nursing scholarship fund in honor of his late wife, Betty Riggs Burnet.  The Burnets in the early days of their marriage.  Betty was a nurse at Mary Greeley.It was the summer of 1939. Two high school buddies were serving as lifeguards at the Methodist Bible Camp on Lake Okoboji when a couple of young women, strolling along the beach after evening worship, approached them and struck up a conversation. One of the young men was George Burnet and one of the young women was Betty Riggs, who was about to steal George’s heart.

Once camp was over, the two returned to their neighboring towns and finished high school. George enrolled at Iowa State University, only to put his education on hold a couple years later to enlist in the Army and serve our country during WWII.

After high school, Betty completed a general year of study at Britt Junior College, and though it was a tumultuous time in history, she pursued her dream of becoming a nurse. She was admitted to the competitive Cadet Nursing Corp program at the Mayo Clinic, which was a three-year, full-time program.

A Life Together

George and Betty were married in 1944 while he was home on leave. After being discharged, he resumed his education at Iowa State and went on to earn his Ph.D. in chemical engineering. He worked in the industry for a brief time before accepting a faculty position at Iowa State, where he served with distinction for the next 39 years. Betty worked in obstetrics and as a surgical nurse at Mary Greeley.

The Burnets enjoyed a wonderful, full life together raising six children, five of whom were born at Mary Greeley. Sadly, Betty passed away in 1993 after battling a brain tumor for 16 years. In her final months, Betty received in-home health care provided by Mary Greeley.


As a way to honor Betty and the profession that was so important to her, George endowed the Betty Riggs Burnet Nursing Continuing Education Fund through the Mary Greeley Foundation.

“Betty was an advocate for education and I know she would be very proud of this fund to support professional development for nurses,” said George. “She had a meaningful career and felt privileged to work at Mary Greeley.”

“We are very grateful for this gift of foresight,” said Cory Geffre, vice president and chief nursing officer. “This fund will help nurses attain the skills necessary to provide the highest level of care for Mary Greeley patients by funding on-site nurse certification training, sending nurses to professional conferences or specialty training, supporting professional speakers on site, and more.”

George’s generous investment in nursing education will not only allow Betty’s legacy to live on, but it will impact nurses and patients at Mary Greeley for many decades to come.

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