MSU Billings Foundation

The Impact of Private Support

The Nelles Nursing Program Endowment

Ralph Nelles

The Nelles Nursing Program Endowment was established in December 2008 with a major gift from Ralph Nelles.  Mr. Nelles, who is well known for his extraordinary philanthropy, especially to Saint Vincent Healthcare in Billings, is a strong advocate for nursing education.  With his gift to MSU Billings, Ralph created a permanent fund that will generate yearly income to help cover the costs of training nurses at MSU Billings.


Housed in the new, clinically state-of-the-art Health Sciences Building on MSUB’s College of Technology campus, the Practical Nurse and Registered Nurse programs focus on the administration of holistic health care that addresses the physical, emotional, socio-cultural, cognitive and aesthetic needs of patients.


Inaugurated in spring semester 2008, the Registered Nurse program was added to the existing Practical Nurse program to help relieve the critical shortage of nurses.  The first nine RN students graduated along with 23 LPN students in December 2008.  In May 2009, 15 more RN students and 13 additional LPN students will graduate.  From now on, the two programs will produce 40 newly minted nurses each year.


Training nurses is a cost-intensive process.  MSU Billings has the most up-to-date university training laboratories possible, including a complete hospital ward equipped with the latest medical equipment.  The beds are occupied by “patient simulators”, eerily life-like, computer-controlled humanoids with skin and hair that look and feel real, heartbeats, lung functions, blood pressures, interchangeable diseases and trauma damage, and electronic voices. 


a nursing student in a lab at City College


Instructors electronically control each patient’s symptoms and responses to the ministrations of student nurses, making them infinitely variable and unpredictable.  Students who make it through this training are extraordinarily well-prepared for their clinical rotations with real patients and for their ultimate careers as nurses in the field.  This kind of equipment is invaluable for training, but the dollar cost is high.  The Nelles Nursing Program Endowment will help assure that our student nurses continue to have access to state-of-the-art equipment in future years, thus benefitting the  many thousands of patients for whom they will care.


If you would like to contribute to the nursing endowment, please call the MSU Billings Foundation, 406-657-2244 or 888-430-6782 (toll free) or email at


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