Remembering a Joint Legacy of Generosity

In 2016, former student Suzi Lockard gave Regis affiliate Prof. Pam Heaberlin a gift no one in her family could: a healthy kidney.

A few years later, Heaberlin’s grateful father, Ralph Dillon – himself the recipient of a donated kidney – established a scholarship to honor Lockard and her gift.

Ralph Dillon passed away December 18, at 83. One of seven children, the South Bend, Ind. native accomplished much in his life, including rising to chief executive officer of Cost Plus World Market. And he was able to see that The Suzi Lockard Memorial Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Scholarship he helped to establish make it possible for many Regis students to achieve their goal of expertly caring for vulnerable infants.

The scholarship, which, with Dillon’s support reached the endowed level, assists Regis students seeking a Master of Science in Nursing/Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) degree who exhibit exceptional compassion and commitment to the service of others.

Students like Christiana Heywood.

Caring for fragile babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) became Heywood’s goal when she witnessed the lifesaving care provided to a nephew born at just 27 weeks. Now in her second year in the Regis neonatal nurse practitioner program, Heywood has been a nurse since 2018, and works at Denver’s St. Joseph Hospital.

An advanced degree, Heywood said, will provide a higher level of expertise and potentially allow her to expand her scope of practice. Still, going back to school is expensive, and scary, she said. Being awarded the Suzi Lockard scholarship, she said, helped a lot, “not just financially, but the idea that somebody looked at my application and thought that I can do this, that they believed in me, it was really empowering,” she said.

The Suzy Lockard scholarship was born when Lockard, who also was studying to become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, took a class from affiliate faculty member Pam Heaberlin. The two women stayed in contact afterward.

A couple years later, Heaberlin learned she had inherited the genetic disease that caused her father to need a kidney transplant. When doctors determined that no one in her family was a donor match, Heaberlin’s family made their search for a donor public.

When Lockard heard about the search, “She texted me and said, ‘Do you really need a kidney? Would you take mine?’” Heaberlin said.

Lockard was a match, and after months of tests and evaluations, the two women went into surgery. When the operation was over, Lockard had one less kidney and Heaberlin was on her way to becoming healthy again.

In 2016, Lockard told Regis magazine she didn’t consider herself a hero, and said becoming Heaberlin’s donor was an easy decision. “Why would I not do it?” she asked. “If I could save someone’s life, why wouldn’t I do it?”

In December 2019, three years after the transplant, Lockard’s own life ended too abruptly for even the most powerful hero to save her: she suffered a brain aneurysm, leaving behind three children. “It’s a great loss,” Heaberlin said shortly afterward. “She was a person who helped everybody.

She is still helping. Thanks to her selflessness, Lockard’s memory lives on through Heaberlin. And, thanks to Ralph Dillon’s gratitude and generosity, it also will live on for many years through the compassionate infant care the Suzi Lockard memorial scholarship helps make possible.

No doubt Suzy Lockard – and Ralph Dillon – would be very proud of their joint legacy.

To learn more about the Suzi Lockard Memorial Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Scholarship and opportunities to donate, contract Laurel Petralia, University Advancement, at: or 303.964.6044.

Ralph Dillon poses for a photo outside. Behind him are branches of a tree and a field

The Suzi Lockard Memorial Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Scholarship founder Ralph Dillon