McKibbins' gifts re-enforce their commitment to health care in Pennsylvania

Brooke Killmon
January 14, 2021

Even before the novel coronavirus underscored the significance of ingenuity and creativity in ensuring healthy communities, Altoona gastroenterologist Dr. Ralph McKibbin and his wife, Cindy McKibbin, knew the importance that innovation plays in improving health care outcomes. To help Penn State’s College of Nursing in inspiring the creative and capable minds of nurse researchers and leaders, the couple has made a $100,000 gift to create the Ralph and Cindy McKibbin Nursing Innovation Fund.

“Encouraging innovation in health care is critical to the translation and implementation of new practices, procedures, and research in clinical settings. These advancements not only contribute to the improved health and wellness of our communities, but also help bring to life the inventive ideas of nurse researchers and leaders,” said Dean Badzek. “Now, more than ever, as COVID-19 evolves, promoting ingenuity will prove pivotal in ensuring our communities stay healthy. The McKibbins’ support will help the College of Nursing to lead the way.”

Growing up in Pennsylvania and attending college in Philadelphia, Ralph has always been aware of the influence and impact Penn State has on his community and others across Pennsylvania. Shortly after beginning his career as a gastroenterologist, and later managing partner for Blair Gastroenterology in Altoona, Ralph decided it was important to develop relationships with Penn State.

Over the course of many years, Ralph and Cindy have dedicated much of their time, talent, and resources to various organizations, including their local church, soup kitchens, and more. As a gastroenterologist, Ralph founded one of the first colon cancer prevention foundations in the country. With much of their philanthropy being focused on the advancement of medical innovations and models of care, both Ralph and Cindy appreciate the significant role innovation plays in improving health and quality of life for individuals in our world. They also believe that nurses are at the forefront of many of those innovations.

“The doctors are there for 10 minutes, and the nurses are there the other 23 hours and 50 minutes. I always say that a nurse is likely the first person you’ll see when you’re born and the last person you’ll see when you die. They’re integrated into our entire lives, and Cindy and I recognize and respect that tremendously,” said Ralph.

The respect and appreciation Ralph and Cindy have for nursing grew even more after both of their mothers fell ill and required intensive nursing and hospice care. Acknowledging the nursing skill and care that was required to manage their mothers’ needs, Ralph and Cindy decided they wanted to do something extra to support the profession.

He and Cindy established the McKibbin Family Nursing Scholarship through Penn State Altoona to support older students who have been inspired to earn a nursing degree yet struggled financially to launch that effort. Later, after deepening their understanding of the role innovation plays in the College of Nursing’s research portfolio, Ralph and Cindy committed $100,000 to the College of Nursing to establish the Ralph and Cindy McKibbin Nursing Innovation Fund.

“We live in an age where everything is rapidly evolving, and improving the delivery of care in the nursing function is the cornerstone of health care. It’s a leverage point, and I feel that helping to innovate will create the biggest benefit for future generations,” said Ralph. “Cindy and I want this fund to effect change by fostering nursing innovation at the root/research level and then translating those ideas into practice across Pennsylvania and beyond.”

The Ralph and Cindy McKibbin Nursing Innovation Fund will be a competitive source of financial support for faculty and researchers who wish to develop innovative ideas for transforming nursing care. Another objective for the fund is to provide support for graduate and undergraduate students and increase their participation in creating and developing innovative health solutions and encourage their entrepreneurial spirit.

Ralph continues to fulfill his desire to give back to his community, fostering his relationship with Penn State Altoona and their respective nursing program, as well as serving as a member of the College of Nursing’s Dean’s Development and Advisory Council at University Park. He is also an honorary Penn State Altoona alumnus.

“As a community leader, I feel it’s my ethical and moral responsibility to lead and to provide opportunity to people because everybody lives with different circumstances,” said Ralph. “Cindy and I want to do our part in supporting the community and inspiring others to help each other, and themselves.”

Cindy is an active community volunteer, working with different groups including the Southern Allegheny Museum of Art, the UPMC Foundation, the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, the Blair Gastroenterology Guts and Glory Foundation, the Hollidaysburg First United Methodist Church, and many others.

“We have donated to the church and volunteered to feed the less fortunate. Helping people is just something that we have both really enjoyed,” said Cindy. “We also have received stacks of letters and thank you cards for what our efforts have done to help students. They are very appreciative and thankful for the scholarship fund that has given them the ability fulfill their dreams.”

Susan Kukic, Director of Development and Alumni Relations for the College of Nursing, stated, “The generosity and vision of donors like Ralph and Cindy helps to pave the groundwork for the cultivation of an environment of possibility for College of Nursing faculty and students interested in participating in innovation and entrepreneurship activities.  These activities have the potential to improve healthcare outcomes for all."

This gift will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

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Last Updated January 27, 2021