A quarter of a century ago, the Luckie legacy of giving to the UAB School of Nursing was launched by Robert E. “Bob” Luckie, Jr., when he funded a nursing scholarship in memory of his late wife, Lois Drolet Luckie. Then came the school’s second Luckie scholarship, supported by Bob and the four Luckie children: Robert E. “Bobby” Luckie, III, Thomas G. “Tom” Luckie, Katherine “Kay” Luckie Shackleford, and Anne Luckie Cobb.
This fall, Bobby Luckie becomes chair of the school’s senior community-support board, the Board of Visitors (BOV). This occurs during the 20th-anniversary year of the BOV – a board envisioned by School of Nursing Dean Emerita Rachel Z. Booth—which became a reality with Bob Luckie as key community organizer. In 2006, the School’s Junior Board of Visitors (JBOV) took root with leadership from Founding Chair Mary Katherine Luckie Cabaniss, daughter of Bobby and his wife, Jill. Recently, a new student-services area on the first floor of the School of Nursing received support from a gift specified in the will of Bob Luckie, who died in February 2007.
Dean Doreen C. Harper refers to this Luckie legacy of support as “a treasure for our school and our students.”
This article – featuring Bobby Luckie and his daughter Mary Katherine – speaks to the “why” behind the Luckie legacy of giving to the UAB School of Nursing.
Lois Drolet Luckie was a slender-and-pretty, bright, modest, blonde-haired woman driven by a devout spiritual faith and a strong sense of family. Lois also was a woman with a zesty love of life and a low-key ability to influence good things from behind the scenes.
“My dad told me that it was Mama who encouraged him to set up his own business,” said Bobby Luckie, speaking of the successful Luckie & Company advertising and public relations firm that Bob Luckie founded. “When Dad was considering going out on his own, he knew that, as a husband and father with responsibilities, it was risky to leave his good, steady advertising sales job at The Birmingham News. But Mama said, ‘If you don’t try, Bob, you’ll never know what you could have accomplished.’ ”
Lois Luckie deeply touched her husband, children, and grandchildren not only through her nurturing but also through her enthusiasm and sense of humor. “Oh, my grandmother could be mischievous,” firstborn granddaughter Mary Katherine recalled with a laugh. “Could she ever!” agreed Bob and Lois’s oldest son, Bobby. “I remember one day when I was watching an Alabama football game with Mama, who so enjoyed it. I had brought along a football for our game-watching, and when Alabama made a great play, I pitched the football to Mama. At one point, Mama promptly kicked that football with such enthusiasm that it sailed straight upward into her chandelier and broke one of the bulb-holders. As she rearranged the broken bulb-holder to hide the result of her wayward kick, she exclaimed, “Don’t tell Bob about this!” Mama was something else!”
A Deep and Painful Loss
Following a long breast-cancer battle, Lois Luckie was admitted for her last hospitalization in mid-April 1987– to what is now known as UAB Hospital. Medical science had prolonged her life but could not save it. Sustained by her strong Catholic faith, Lois accepted her fate and never complained.
“Mama was so brave, a real trouper, continuing to teach us by example even as she lay dying,” said Bobby. “From the time Mama came into the hospital until she died, 37 days passed,” said Bobby. “For us in the family, knowing we were losing her was like living a 37-day nightmare. Making that nightmare bearable was the compassion, love, and care shown to Mama by doctors, nurses, and others on the hospital staff. They were wonderful. Until Mama got sick, I had never had any real experience with nurses. Following Mama’s sickness and death, our family could never forget what those nurses did. There was one nurse, UAB nursing graduate Holli Kemper, (later Holli Kemper Mock), who especially connected with Mama and was so good to her.”
Mary Katherine said the nurses’ outreach helped Lois and all those who loved her: “Those of us in our family were a wreck. Those nurses took care of us, too. Good nurses just have these abilities that I so appreciate.”
After Lois died on May 21, 1987, at age 69, her husband, Bob, funded a scholarship at the UAB School of Nursing in her memory. The scholarship also honors nurse Holli and her colleagues who took care of Lois and the Luckie family.
The Giving Spirit of Bob Luckie
Time and again, Bob Luckie showed his appreciation by giving. “Dad didn’t want credit for giving—he just wanted to give,” said Bobby. He always said, “It’s much better to give than to receive.”
Mary Katherine said her grandfather’s desire to give was so compelling that she thinks he was “partly driven to make money so he would have some money to give away.” From Mary Katherine’s perspective, that giving spirit spread in the Luckie family. “As children we were raised to believe that you give,” she said, “and that even when people can’t give money, they can still give time.”
Both Bobby and Mary Katherine have vivid memories of the strong persona of the father/grandfather they loved. They remember Bob Luckie’s talents to lead and succeed. They remember his jokes and infectious laughter. They remember his powerful love for his family and community. And they remember his giving.
Bobby said his dad was so driven to give that Bob looked back and regretted periods in his life when he could not give in the way he wanted. “That was true in the case of a lady named Rose, who took care of Dad’s mother when she was in such bad health,” recalled Bobby. “When I was just a young boy, I went with Dad to visit my sick grandmother; I met Rose and saw how she loved and cared for my grandmother."
In later years, Dad told me, ‘Bobby, Rose was so good to my mother. One of my regrets in life is that back then I wasn’t making enough money to really do something special financially to show my appreciation to Rose.’ Years after Rose had died, when Dad was making his annual contribution to a local newspaper-sponsored Goodfellows Fund to buy Christmas gifts for needy children, each year he made that donation in memory of Rose.”
Glad to Support the School
Both Bobby and Mary Katherine are glad that Bob Luckie chose to support the UAB School of Nursing and that they have followed in his footsteps in this regard. As Bobby spoke about his own hopes and plans for the period he will chair the Board of Visitors (BOV), he talked of the need to continue longstanding BOV projects, such as scholarships, and he also spoke of hopes for starting new BOV initiatives. “I would like to see our board support efforts in Alabama to make broader use of nurse practitioners in areas that have many needy people and very limited health care access,” he said. “The Board of Visitors is a strong board, and I believe we could make an impact through our support of the good work that nurse practitioners can do.”
As for Mary Katherine, she continues to be active in the Junior Board of Visitors (JBOV), which she helped establish six years ago as founding chair. Although she has been involved in several community-service endeavors over the years, she said serving on the JBOV holds a closeness to her heart that’s unique. “My family is and has been so involved in supporting UAB’s School of Nursing,” she said. “This is very special to me!”
Mary Katherine said that she and some fellow JBOV members have been fascinated about a particular characteristic of the senior BOV: “We have noticed that when people become BOV members, they tend to become so attached that they don’t want to rotate off the board after a period of service, as is customary with many community boards. Most BOV members have not gotten off; they have continued to serve.
Well, guess what? Members of the JBOV are forming the same committed attitude. We get on the JBOV, become attached to the mission, and want to keep on serving and supporting the education of great nurses.”