Excerpt from speech by Marti Keenher-Engelke delivered at the MSU College of Nursing Scholarships and Awards Ceremony on Friday, October 2, 2015
When my brothers and I set up this scholarship we did it to honor our parents. Neither Bill nor Angie Keehner went to College but it was always clear that their children would. They sacrificed and encouraged us throughout their life and all of us earned graduate degrees. My brother Dan and I are both nurses and my brother Bill also began his career at Michigan State. To the parents and spouses and loved ones doing the same thing for a future nurse - I know your efforts are greatly appreciated.
As I thought about it, I realized that in addition to honoring our parents, providing a scholarship to a future nurse is a way to thank MSU for giving me the ability to join a great profession and have a rewarding career. I graduated in 1971. You can do the math to know I’ve been a nurse for over 40 years. Nurses share critical moments with individuals and families at the beginning of life, the end of life and everything in between. Every day a nurse goes to work knowing that his or her day won’t be wasted. It may be draining, it might frustrating but nurses do important work, they make a contribution. Many national polls continue to find that nursing is the most respected health care profession.
I have had the opportunity to work in home care, health departments, ICUs and other clinical agencies but for most of my career I have been a nurse educator at East Carolina University in North Carolina. I have taught students from the undergraduate to the doctoral level and I have loved being connected to the future of nursing through my students. Almost all of them struggle to pay for their education because College has become so expensive.
Nursing is a hard major to get into these days. Only those with the highest academic ability are admitted and when they are admitted the course work is challenging. Unlike many majors, nurses don’t take all of their courses on campus. They travel to clinicals and they have to buy uniforms and supplies so they can do those clinical rotations. Before going to clinical, they spend a lot of time in simulation labs so they can be safe and confident in those clinical areas. A single textbook for a nursing student can be over $100. By their senior year many of them have taken out loans, they are working in addition to going to school and they are hoping that their car holds up so they can get to that last capstone clinical.
When I read the letter that Benjamin Van Dyke wrote thanking us for the scholarship, I felt joy. Here was a young man (my brother was particularly glad about that) who had done well at MSU and was about to join our great profession. He has goals similar to ours, to make a difference in health care in the US and abroad. We are delighted to make a small contribution to his success.
Giving is a way to bring together wonderful future nurses that will keep our profession strong and seasoned nurses (like me and my brother) who are about to retire from our career. As I reflect back on what has been a great career, I will have the satisfaction that this scholarship connects me to the loving memory of my wonderful parents and the future of nursing by contributing to the education of a Spartan Nurse.