Remarks upon receiving Distinguished Alumnus Award
Thank you. Dr. Keogh, members of the Alumni Board and alumni, faculty, students, and the fabulous class of 1964:
It is 6 a.m., dark and cold. I am standing on the Loyola “L” platform with my dorm-mates, Paula, Barb, and “Slivs,” waiting for the train to Weiss Memorial Hospital for clinical. Paula is standing up but her eyes are closed. (HOW does she do that?) I have my student nursing uniform, wrapped in plastic, on a hanger. Now I am thinking that the leftover pizza slice for breakfast maybe was not such a good idea. The wind is cold, VERY cold. I am shivering. What am I doing here? What is a kid from Oglesby, Ill., doing in this big city? Why did I choose Loyola anyway?
In my high school graduating class, out of all the girls who went into nursing, I was the only one who selected a collegiate BSN program. At the time, most nurses were still trained in a 3-year, hospital based program. My poor father, faced with the cost of college tuition, kept asking why don’t you just go to the 3-year school?
I chose Loyola because I knew I wanted a college degree. My mother had instilled in me with the value of a college education, even for a girl! Also, I was drawn to public health nursing and do that, one had to have a BSN which was offered at Loyola. Furthermore, I felt it was probably important to have some spiritual guidance to help me in my chosen profession. (Thus far, I had only attended public schools and CCD religious ed). Lastly, I felt the lure of Chicago – THE big city, close enough to home for a visit, yet far enough to allow me to spread my wings and try being on my own.
It’s now 6:10 and those are my reasons. Reviewing those reasons on that L platform was enough to keep me going then. BUT, I didn’t know the half of it. Thanks to my education-minded mother and reluctant, yet faithful tuition-paying father, my life was being re-made. Reflecting on my education at Loyola, I can honestly say it was a life changing experience for me. Only with a little distance could I really appreciate the reasons why a Loyola education is truly a blessed gift. Those reasons fall into four main categories:
The Gift of Excellent Professional Education. The foundation in nursing attained at Loyola has served me well in clinical practice and academia. From the San Carlos Apache Reservation, to inner city clinics for the underserved, to the University of Washington FNP program, I appreciate that the nursing process (which, as students, we all grew tired of hearing about) truly is a framework for excellence and professional action. Our faculty and those endless care plans, blue book exams, and clinical seminars challenged us to become critical thinkers, to ask important questions, to strive for excellence and to care with compassion.
The Gift of Pioneering Spirit of Leadership, Pushing the Envelope. My first year marked the first year Loyola had women students in official housing on the Lakeshore campus. We were in Stebbler Hall, a converted three-flat building that was “cozy” to say the least. Dean of Women Mariette Le Blanc was a regular visitor to Stebbler, often to remind us that we were setting the stage for future generations of women students on campus; that the success of this dorm was critical to the progress of women! She was a champion for women students with a ready smile and circles under her eyes which seemed to grow darker as the school year progressed, culminating in the night of the water balloons thrown from 3rd floor windows. (Collegiate growth comes in fits and starts; with some periods of regression) I am sure Dean Le Blanc and our faculty bypassed purgatory and went straight to heaven for their work in grooming us to be responsible professional women. Our faculty also promoted us as future leaders. We were all pioneers then, as early adopters of the BSN … defending why we selected this curriculum while at the same time secretly worried that our skill set would be adequate. (It was more than adequate) The entire Loyola educational experience cultivated a sense of professional responsibility for ourselves … to be the best we could be and a responsibility for others … sometimes to push the envelope to make things better for others – our patients, colleagues, our families, and our communities. I am sure these experiences contributed to my pioneering the NP role in the 1970s (I took the national certifying exam the second time it was offered) and more recently pioneering the Doctor of Nursing Practice.
The Gift of Spiritual Formation. In addition to excellent professional preparation, Loyola’s major gift is spiritual growth with a deeper understanding of the motto “To know and to serve.” Jesuit education means more than acquiring knowledge; it is what you do with that knowledge that is important; it is using that knowledge in the service of humanity … to serve others as a way of serving God, and to see the sacred in the mundane daily tasks of life. AND, to have faith and hope, so that we know and can convey to others, that suffering and disappointment don’t have the last word.
The Gift of Classmates/ Community. As if all these gifts from Loyola were not enough, a major gift was the people I met here at Loyola, many of whom are in this room. I was blessed in the dorm and in my classes to be surrounded by a real brain trust ... genuine friends who modeled patience, provided support (especially to a frightened kid from a small town), and stimulated me to be the best I could be!
My reasons for choosing Loyola were valid when I was standing on the L platform and those aims have more than been met. Over the years, I have been reminded of the gift of a Loyola education and MY appreciation continues to deepen. So, I close with a sincere thank you and a little “assignment” (sorry, the instructor in me can’t resist). I ask you, especially the students here today, to reflect on what you have learned being at Loyola. Not only about listening to heart sounds, or checking IVs but what have you learned about yourself; about being a professional, about compassion, perseverance, about building a network of support?
For the alumnus, an added reflection: Yesterday, I heard you acknowledge the gifts you received at Loyola. Now, what can you do to pass these gifts forward? How do we support and bring up the next generation?
Indeed, Loyola educated nurses seem special…as each and every one of you truly are. THANK YOU!