Growing up in Minnesota, Plank's legendary drive and determination brought him to Yale, where he graduated in 1944 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He served with the U.S. Army Air Corps as a bomber pilot in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. While in cadet training in Texas, Raymond met William Close, MD. It would take another 60 years for the two men to reconnect.
During that time, Plank founded and built the Apache Corporation into one of the largest independent energy companies in the United States. Meanwhile, Close retired after practicing medicine in the Congo, where he played a major role in stemming a 1976 breakout of the Ebola virus.
Inspired by his friend's work, Plank created the Close Fund for Teaching Nurses. The Close Fund was modeled on another successful program he began called the Fund for Teachers. Over the past 10 years, the Fund for Teachers has awarded more than $14 million in grants to over 4,000 pre-kindergarten through 12th grade teachers.
Like the Fund for Teachers, the Close Fund seeks to enrich the personal and professional growth of nurse faculty. It recognizes and supports them as they identify and pursue opportunities around the globe that will have the greatest impact on their practice, the academic lives of their students, and their local communities.
"Nurses have limited opportunity to experience a 'sabbatical,'" Plank noted. "There is a tremendous need throughout the world for nurses and the care they provide. Why not offer that opportunity to nurses while at the same time improving health care in some of the neediest areas of the world?"
In 2009, Raymond created the Plank Fund for Education and International Health at YSN. The Plank Fund was created with a gift of $1.5 million, providing income in perpetuity to support international scholarship and clinical activities of students and faculty at YSN. In addition, the Plank Fund supports collaborations with the Close Fund for Teaching Nurses, expanding opportunities for students, YSN faculty, and nurse clinicians.
"Raymond has made important contributions to improving the health and well being of people in a number of international locations," said Dean Margaret Grey. "His gift to YSN will help to support our goal of developing sustainable collaborations with our international clinical partners. I am pleased to participate on the Board of the Close Fund, and I believe that our collaboration will expand YSN's relationships and provide new opportunities for our students and faculty."
"I believe that promoting the professional growth of nurses through practice experiences in diverse settings around the world will have an important impact, both at home and abroad," Plank added. "With the expertise and the right level of resources and dedication, we can all leave this earth a little better than we found it."
"When I was nine or ten, I remember walking with my dad with his arm around my shoulder. He said, 'I hope to leave this earth a little better than I found it,'" recalled Raymond Plank, Yale '44. "I didn't understand what he meant at the time, but I think he wanted me to think about it and do the same one day." As a visionary leader in civic, educational, business, and conservation-related activities, Plank has since realized his father's aspirations.