the Goshen College Bulletin | Alumni magazine since 1956

To the Class of 2003:
'Golden Anniversary' nursing graduates of Goshen College

"Our desire is that you will provide culturally sensitive holistic care and live a life that is Christ-centered."

Senior nurses' pinning ceremony
May 24, 2003

Against the backdrop of a nation at war and within the theological context of a peace church, Mennonites began to discuss the need for church-based baccalaureate nursing education in the early 1940s. In June of 1941, a hospital committee was appointed by the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities to undertake a study of the needs for a bachelor of science degree program in nursing. This study started a chain of events which eventually culminated in the establishment of the School of Nursing at Goshen College.

Initially, the committee looked at the possibility of building a Mennonite hospital in Elkhart County that would provide the needed clinical facilities for a baccalaureate education. The committee studying the hospital-based education model had several goals: to train nurses who were professionally competent, with skills equal to those of nurses trained at secular schools; to provide a setting where students’ Christian spiritual lives were nurtured; and to provide more Mennonite nurses for overseas and in-country mission work.

In February 1949 a decision was made to open a collegiate nursing school at Goshen College. The first students were admitted to the clinical aspects of the nursing curriculum on Aug. 14, 1950, at Goshen College – the first college or university in the State of Indiana to establish a baccalaureate program.

And now, here we are in 2003, celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the first graduating class of nurses with a bachelor of science in nursing degree from Goshen College. The Class of 2003 is the “golden class” – what an honor; I congratulate each of you for that.

As we prepare to celebrate 50 years of nursing education at Goshen College, the planning committee has asked alumni (over 1,600 of them) how their nursing education experience at Goshen College has impacted them personally and professionally in their community and in the world.

Of the first 100 responses we have received, here are some of their answers:

From 1953 …

“Being in the first class was exciting! Everyone was so helpful and anxious to see us succeed – faculty, doctors and staff at Elkhart General Hospital. The times we spent in prayer before starting work at the hospital put our work in proper perspective. The whole experience was amazing and had a positive impact on my life. Nursing was my mission field.”

From 1954 …

“I have read that people of my age group are the 'good times generation' because a woman with a college degree in 1954 had opportunities. I found this to be true. I was pursued for interesting positions because of the B.S.N. Because of the fine training at Goshen College School of Nursing I was able to enjoy the challenges and the tasks that the staff, the clients and the professionals presented."

From 1957 …

Culture for Service' has always stuck with me and I have worked with low income people for the last 22 years and feel like that is where I can contribute the most.”

From the 1960s …

“I have always appreciated the motto ‘Culture for Service,’ which has also been my personal goal in nursing, in my family and in my church and community. I feel that being a servant is Christ’s admonition to us, and I appreciate the education I received at Goshen toward that end.”

“Goshen College was instrumental in assisting me to live out my faith commitment in the world. It helps me see my small part in being in the Kingdom of God! My life has been as involved in spiritual journeys as in the nursing profession. I am deeply grateful for the wonderful preparation in nursing education that I received at Goshen, as I am deeply grateful for the liberal arts preparation in Bible, fine arts, history, etc.

“[My education] taught me how to problem solve. It taught me how to communicate with patients, how to listen, how to teach my patients. It taught me to accept my patients for who they are, respecting their individual cultures and beliefs. It taught me how to know myself.”

From the 1970s …

“Nursing education at Goshen College instilled in me the love of learning and the ability to see patients as whole persons. I continue to pursue education to learn more about holistic care of patients and self.”

“I view my education at Goshen College as having paved the way for me professionally in providing leadership training, critical thinking skills and a well-rounded liberal arts background. I am thankful that I was motivated to get my B.S.N. from the beginning. GC’s emphasis on service and world view was also a great benefit.”

From 1985 …

“Along with the strong base of clinical skills, the training I received at GC provided me with a well-rounded education, the ability to write well, to think for myself and to live my life following the example of Jesus Christ.”

“I am equipped to think outside the box and be a life-long learner. I especially appreciate the cross-cultural sensitivity I gained there.”

From the 1990s …

“The education I got was excellent. The concept of holistic care is still the only way to approach things. I work with a lot of people who do not understand this concept as well. I feel like it has made me a more compassionate and understanding person.”

“I am always concerned about giving culturally sensitive nursing care to the occupational health clients I serve.”

From 2001 …

“There is nothing better than waking up every morning knowing you love what you do. I am able to take control of situations and to relate to my patients and families using tools I gained at Goshen College.”

While reading all the wonderful things nursing graduates are writing about the program I kept thinking that the themes would change. Yet even as the nursing profession and the health care arena certainly have and will always change, the themes continue to be the same for graduates of each decade.

From the Class of 2003 …

“I have learned to question God in a way that I never would have imagined. While some may see this as a weakness, the process of questioning has always brought me closer to God than I was before. Through working on an oncology unit, I have been forced to examine the idea of death in a real way. I have been forced to question what it means for a young person to die from cancer. Through these times, I have been forced to question what it means for me to have a ‘faith that is active and reflective.’”

“Study-Service Term helped me not only learn how to physically adapt to a different situation, but I also learned how to adapt and embrace a culture very different than my own.”

“I have been blessed with dear friends who I have met at Goshen College who, through their words, experiences and by simply living their lives, have demonstrated an active and reflective faith that has deeply impacted my faith.”

“Just wanted to share with you an experience I had in leadership already that made me smile. I had a Spanish-speaking patient – lots of family around and only the daughter spoke English. The mother and sister came from Mexico to be with the patient. I was able to communicate enough with the patient and family – I am sure I butchered the language and they were very patient with me. I did obtain a food menu in Spanish which no one had done, even though this person had been a patient for 16 days. I discharged him tonight. He kept thanking me and telling me how much he appreciated all of my help. I took him to the main entrance in a wheelchair and as soon as the car pulled up the patient and family member gave me a hug. His mother was in tears as she hugged me. As I walked back to the unit, I couldn’t help but think that this is what it is all about … [caring for] one patient at a time. I made a difference to this family in the two nights I cared for their loved one. I am so glad I am getting a bachelor’s degree and I am so glad I have had Spanish and the cultural classes. I know I will make mistakes and I know I will get frustrated, but it is nights like this that make it all worth it.”

“I am so glad I chose Goshen. I do not believe I would have ‘survived’ in a class of 50. I just want to say thank you for allowing me to grow and realize my goals.”

“I now feel an overwhelming responsibility to reach out to those that are impoverished. I was not aware of this desire until I was in my Public and Community Health nursing classes and in my Health Care Ethics class. There are an unbelievable number of people in the world that do not have access to health care, including in the United States. I feel that since I have this knowledge, it is my responsibility to educate others and to find ways to make health care more accessible to everyone.”

“Many of the nursing professors use statements about spirituality in the classroom, and even open class times with prayer and a time for prayer requests. I appreciate this act of Christian faith and love as demonstrated by my professors. I also believe that through seeing their examples I can carry these same ideals with me into the workplace.”

“My SST alternative courses focused on the influence of religion for many people. We have a mind, body and a spirit and all three must be cared for. Caring for spiritual needs means caring for the whole person, accepting their beliefs and experiences and helping them with issues surrounding meaning and hope.”

While I was working on this speech, the phone rang in my office – it was a member of my church and he was calling about one of our Goshen College senior nurses who was caring for his mother-in-law. He wanted me to know that she had given excellent nursing care and that she was the bright spot in a most difficult hospitalization situation. He said, “She listens to us and is providing excellent nursing care and I thought you should know.”

In the comments from our graduating seniors, the themes and values that have been integrated into their education are very similar to those nursing graduates from the past 50 years. They are:

' critical thinking;
' cultural awareness;
' faith that is active and reflective;
' holistic nursing care;
' excellence in nursing education; and
' Christ-centered education

As a nurse educator I know that there are 2.5 million nurses and that half of the nursing workforce is retiring in 10 years. So how can our graduates impact that demand? You can make a difference by providing culturally sensitive, quality patient care and contribute to the nursing profession through your collaborative efforts and leadership skills. Your commitment to holistic nursing care will impact each patient you care for – one at a time.

You each know the rapid changes that are occurring in the health care system and the many challenges ahead. The health care system of today is doing surgery by robotics and utilizing stem cells to prevent and/or cure disease. We are doing health examination by fiber optics and telecommunication.

But the need for excellent, holistic care by Goshen College graduates continues to be essential for the future!

To the nursing graduates – the health care system you are entering is a much different world than the one our eight graduates 50 years ago entered. It is a highly technological world with numerous ethical dilemmas. It is an exciting – but sometimes frightening – place to be. You will be faced with professional decisions, mandatory overtime, collective bargaining, whistle-blowing activities, quality of care issues, health care access issues and many more.

The Goshen College faculty feel that you are ready for the challenges, and we know you will make a significant contribution to the health care arena of the future and the nursing profession.

We expect you to demonstrate knowledge and skills that are exemplary, we expect you to continue learning throughout your life. Some of you will be nurse practitioners and professors. Some of you may publish articles or work with the underserved in other countries. Our desire is that you will provide culturally sensitive holistic care and live a life that is Christ-centered. As the nursing faculty did for the first graduating class, we expect great things from you, the golden class of 2003.

Vicky Kirkton studied to become a registered nurse at Mennonite Hospital School of Nursing, and then earned a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Goshen College in 1973. She completed a masters degree at Ball State University and moved into nursing education, joining the GC faculty in 1998. Active in local and state nursing and healthcare-related organizations, Kirkton is president of Deans and Directors of Nursing Education in Indiana, a six-year member of the political action committee of the Indiana State


Zac Albrecht
2003 nurses' pinning ceremony

Nursing Dept.
The Class of 1953, the first graduates to receive a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Goshen College.

Nursing Dept.
Student nurses pile into the Gray Goose to get a ride to Elkhart General Hospital.

Nursing Dept.
Relationships with doctor and professional nurses have been important to GC's program.

Jodi H. Beyeler
Tricia Short Yoder, of the Class of 2002, was hired upon graduation by Goshen General Hospital
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