Olive Kendrick Britt

Bequest Honors Sister’s Nursing Career

Born early in the twentieth century, sisters Patricia and Olive Kendrick were drawn to careers in health care. But their parents didn’t approve, so for a while, in accordance with their parents’ wishes, the two young women deferred their dreams. But the pull was too strong.

Patricia Kendrick (Nursing ’56) became a nurse.

Ms. Kendrick studied poultry science as an undergraduate at the Oregon State University School of Agriculture, receiving a BS in 1942. But she knew her calling was nursing. During World War II, she volunteered with the Red Cross as a nurse’s aide at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., working on weekends in the amputation ward. In 1956, she graduated from the nursing diploma program at the University of Virginia. Ms. Kendrick worked briefly in the Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Md., and then at the Portland Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center in Oregon. In 1962, she transferred to Richmond, Va., to work as a registered nurse, first with the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center and later with Henrico Doctors’ Hospital.

“Pat was the consummate nurse,” said Jennifer Bell Newton, a close family friend. “She took nursing very seriously. It was a profession and not just a job to her. She was very dedicated.”

For her part, Olive Britt chose a career as an equine veterinarian, becoming the first woman in Virginia to do so.

Dr. Britt graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1959. She was the veterinarian for Meadow Farm in Doswell, Va., where the legendary racehorse Secretariat was born in 1970. As a three-year-old, Secretariat won the Triple Crown with victories at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes. From 1989 to 1990, “Doc” Britt served as president of the North American Veterinary Conference.

“She was a highly skilled veterinarian who treated animals and owners with the utmost respect,” said Dr. Colin Burrows, executive director of the North American Veterinary Conference. “She had a positive effect on every life she touched. We are honored to have had her as our first female president and she will be sorely missed.”

Though the two sisters had very different personalities, they lived together for a number of years later in life. “Pat had kind of a sharp personality,” said Mrs. Newton, who served as the executor of Dr. Britt’s estate. “She would say what was on her mind. Olive got along with everybody. She was a gentle person. Even though they were very different, they lived together and it worked.”

Ms. Kendrick’s marriage to Merwyn Chapman ended in divorce. Dr. Britt’s husband, Theodore Cleveland Britt, predeceased her. Ms. Kendrick died in 1998, eight years before her elder sister. Neither woman had children.

In planning her estate, Dr. Britt established the Olive K. Britt Trust, which in 2007 funded a scholarship in honor of her sister, the Patricia Kendrick Memorial Scholarship at the University of Virginia School of Nursing. The $50,000 bequest will support an annual scholarship for a graduate or undergraduate nursing student at UVA, based on need and scholastic merit. The first scholarship was awarded in October 2007 to Sarah Myers Kirchner (Nursing ’11) of Charlottesville, Va.

“They were very strong women for their time,” Mrs. Newton said of the two Kendrick sisters. “They were pioneers.”