Susan Lucken, BSN '83,
Aubrey Johnson, BSN '17
2015 Scholarships & Awards Ceremony 

Susan Lucken, Age 5

Susan's Halloween costume name badge and CON pin

Demand for a Spartan education is growing but public funding is down. Helping young people realize their potential calls for private support to provide extraordinary learning opportunities and to keep our doors open to the best and brightest regardless of their financial means.

Susan and Tim Lucken understand the importance of private support and have answered the call by establishing an expendable scholarship to help deserving nursing students realize their dreams. Susan, a 1983 BSN graduate of the MSU College of Nursing, knew at age five that she wanted to be a nurse. It was even reflected in the Halloween costume she wore that year. Her mom made sure she looked the part from cap to toe including a nametag printed with her name and “Beaumont Hospital” beneath it. Coincidently, Susan went on to enjoy a successful and rewarding 30-year nursing career at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. And now she is following in her parents' philanthropic footsteps by supporting the next generation of Spartan Nurses.

The first recipient of the Susan Varbedian Lucken Nursing Scholarship is Aubrey Johnson, BSN Class of 2017, who was awarded the scholarship in spring 2015.

“Seeing the money at work is both motivation and reward,” said Susan. “I was fortunate that my parents paid for my education while other members of my class balanced coursework with part-time jobs and families. Nursing school was rigorous and so demanding; our goal with the scholarship is for a student to be able to concentrate on academics.” Getting to know Aubrey made an immediate impact on the Luckens and they are thrilled to be able to help a student who is focused, has a good work ethic, is passionate about nursing and truly appreciates and values the scholarship they are providing.

“Aubrey is a gift,” said Susan. The two have bonded over Pharmacology, Care Plans, Clinicals and the hospital where Aubrey volunteers: Beaumont.

Tracy Graham,
Leonard Graham II,
Kyle Wilson, BSN '16
2015 Scholarship & Awards Ceremony

Sergeant Leonard Bernard Graham III

The Sergeant Leonard Bernard Graham III Nursing Scholarship was established by his beloved family as a way to honor USMC Sergeant Leonard Bernard Graham III whose goal was to attend the Michigan State University College of Nursing. Leonard enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2008 to make a difference in the world. He served in Afghanistan and received many citations for his bravery. Leonard always cared about the needs of others before his own. His life ended tragically on September 20, 2013.

When asked about the impact they would like to make through the scholarship, Tracy Graham spoke about keeping her son’s name alive and doing it in a way that was meaningful for him. The current scholarship is the result of an expendable gift but their main goal is an endowment. “Supporting a student who will become a nurse continues a legacy of helping people—that’s how Leonard lived his life,” Tracy said. “As a middle class family we don’t have the ability to make a personal cash gift to start an endowment so we’ve gotten creative in our fundraising efforts.” In November, the month we celebrate Veteran’s Day and honor those who served our country, the family partnered with Bagger Dave’s in Novi to raise funds for the scholarship. Family, friends and supporters came together for a fun evening that resonated with the same spirit in which Leonard lived.

In spring 2015, the recipient of the Sergeant Leonard Bernard Graham III Nursing Scholarship was Kyle Wilson, BSN 2016. When asked about the value of being able to connect with the scholarship recipient, Leonard Graham II talked about immediate impact and how the tangible connection with the student who is benefitting from the support brings it to a higher level. “Understanding and hearing about that individual’s aspirations makes it more meaningful,” said Leonard. Kyle’s aspirations do just that; “Upon completion of my degree I will begin exploring the qualifications and training needed to become a flight nurse in the US Air Force. The military is special to me and I want to be able to support my fellow soldiers again. This scholarship will allow me to actualize my dream of being a nurse. I am honored to represent SGT Graham and his dream of becoming a nurse.”


Standing: Stephen Engelke, Martha Keehner Engelke, William Keehner, Pam Paxton-Keehner, Daniel Keehner, Peggy Keehner
Sitting: Rachel Ryder, Benjamin Van Dyke

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.

Thank you.