Alumna Impacts Our Legacy of Learning
A $210,000 Mount Carmel Alumni Association gift to MCCN’s “Our Legacy of Learning” campaign will enhance students’ success and graduates’ future contributions to the profession of nursing.
“We are grateful to Rachel Sheets Zook, a member of the Class of 1954, for remembering Mount Carmel in her will,” says Pat Steele Skunda ’72, ’10 and ’14, MS, RN, president of the Mount Carmel Alumni Association (MCAA) Board.
“Our Board wanted to carefully deliberate to determine the best use of Rachel’s generosity, so we invited Kathleen Williamson, PhD, MSN, RN, President and Academic Dean, MCCN, and Alyssa Fry, senior development officer, Mount Carmel Health System, to discuss how we could direct Rachel’s gift for the greatest impact,” she says. The MCAA Board immediately established an annual Rachel Zook Memorial Scholarship of $1,500, which was awarded to an MCCN student for the first time in 2020, as they continued to deliberate.
“After careful consideration and discussion, the MCAA Board voted unanimously to direct $210,000 to MCCN’s Our Legacy of Learning campaign for three programs that will positively impact students by supporting faculty,” she notes. Those programs are: Rachel Zook, RN, Memorial Faculty Innovation Scholarship; Rachel Zook, RN, Memorial Speaker Series; and the MCCN Nightingale Faculty Fellows Program.
“We know that every Mount Carmel alumni will share in the gratitude we feel for Rachel’s generosity and also feel renewed pride in being a graduate of either the School or the College,” Skunda adds.
“We are grateful to our Alumni Association board members for their foresight in investing this gift for three programs that allow our faculty to continuously improve our preparation of graduates as competent and compassionate nurse leaders,” said Kathleen Williamson, PhD, MSN, RN, President and Academic Dean, Mount Carmel College of Nursing.
MCCN’s “Our Legacy of Learning” campaign identified the need for an investment in innovative nursing education. Professional development of faculty and staff, along with adoption of advanced technology teaching tools, allow faculty of the College to better prepare graduates as leaders and experts in evidence-based practice, prepared to tackle health care’s greatest challenges and enhance care quality, safety and desired patient outcomes.
Faculty development opportunities for continuing education ensure professors and instructors are consistently equipped to engage in leading evidence-based teaching, as well as be reliably prepared to contribute to creation of new knowledge through research and dissemination of findings. Supporting faculty attendance at academic conferences and bringing to MCCN nationally recognized experts will ultimately enhance student success.
Technology advancements, including virtual reality, augmented reality, telehealth, and high-fidelity simulators, as well as iPads and state-of-the-art software, are all critical elements in offering dynamic and creative learning environments, regardless if face-to-face or online.
Rachel Zook, RN, Memorial Faculty Innovation Scholarship provides the needed funds ($5,000 per year for a total of $25,000 over five (5) years) allowing MCCN faculty to advance their research, scholarship and, professional and creative activities in their area of specialty. The College promotes faculty scholarship, and these funds will further advance and directly support these activities and highlight the scholarly work of faculty. This award is intended to provide financial support for the direct costs of research studies, demonstration projects, feasibility studies or other forms of proof of concept, to enable faculty members to leverage the results and apply for external funds to support their research, scholarship or creative activities. These scholarships are competitive and faculty members must apply.
Rachel Zook, RN, Memorial Speaker Series ($40,000 per year for four (4) years) will bring nationally recognized experts, authors, and speakers to provide interesting and timely information about nursing arts and policy, either in-person or virtually. Open to faculty, staff, students, alumni, members of MCCN Board of Trustees, and MCCN donors, the Series also will be a mechanism to engage our alumni and nursing colleagues across the region to encourage lifelong learning.
MCCN Nightingale Faculty Fellows Program was created in 2020 as a catalyst to drive the adoption of new and emerging technology and impacts our faculty’s pedagogy and student success, also will benefit from the Zook gift. This fellowship program ($5,000 per year for a total of $25,000) promotes a collaborative community of faculty who address teaching, learning, and use of technology through mentoring to aid in the implementation of teaching and learning innovations. The Faculty Fellows assist in continuing our legacy of academic excellence in the face of rapidly changing times while working with their peers to identify challenges and explore how technology and evidence-based teaching strategies can help overcome them.
Born Feb. 10, 1933, in Kilborne, Ohio, Rachel Sheetz married Ronald Zook in December 1955 and practiced in the office of an otolaryngologist, as a home health nurse, and at the Columbus Cancer Clinic (forerunner of today’s LifeCare Alliance) until their son, Dwight Alan, was born in 1956. Sadly, he passed at age 18 in 1979, and her husband died in 2008.
Rachel and her husband enjoyed 52 years of marriage, at one time living on a small farm in Licking County where they bred American Kennel Club Brittany Sporting dogs. For more than 30 years they competed in AKC events in field trials and obedience events with their dogs. Rachel was residing in a senior residence in Delaware, Ohio, at the time of her passing, Oct. 18, 2016.
“I remember Rachel as always having a smile on her face and a willingness to do for others. She attended many of the Alumni Homecoming banquets and, next to her husband and their chronically ill child whom she provided care for, Mount Carmel was her next love,” recalls Ann Schiele, PhD, RN, MCCN president emeritus.
Phylis Motz Crook, Class of 1963 alumna, former coordinator of Alumni Relations and long-time volunteer for MCAA, said: “I enjoyed Rachel’s friendship for many years as we are both ‘Mount Carmel nurses.’ We did a lot of fun work together with the Alumni Association and she donated many of her beautifully quilted items over the years to benefit scholarships for student nurses. I last saw her in 2014 when she attended her 60th class reunion. She was a gentle soul and will be greatly missed.”
When Rachel Sheetz Zook ’54, RN, was at “the Mount,” student life was very different than today. Students were required to live on campus unless their family lived nearby, they observed strict curfews, and were permitted to meet with male visitors only under the watchful eye of the house mother. It was not until four years after Rachel’s class of only 35 students – all women – graduated that married students were admitted. The curriculum at the time was a three-year diploma program from Mount Carmel School of Nursing, which transitioned in 1990 to the fully accredited four-year College it is today. Members of the faculty who would have taught Rachel and her classmates also were very different from today. The director of the School was Sister M. Nicholas Gough, CSC, and several Sisters taught various classes.
They were members of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, who founded the original training school for nurses in 1903.
“Steve says we don’t just have strong ties to Mount Carmel, we have an anchor and a chain,” chuckles Monica Walter, BSN, RN, as she smiles at her husband of 44 years.
Not only were Monica and Steve Walter – as well as the 14 siblings they have between them – all born at Mount Carmel West, but their 42-year-old son was born there, as well.
Those are all significant anchors, but the one set deepest was in 1976 when Monica’s then 50-year-old father suffered a heart attack and was brought by squad to the Franklinton hospital.
“At the time, I was just out of nursing school and my husband of only 10 months stayed right at my side,” she recalls. “I was really impressed by how Dr. Murnane cared for my dad, who went on to live another 38 productive years. The experience of seeing first-hand what it meant to advocate for patients, including personally watching over my father, had a huge impact on my practice as a nurse.”
Just three years later, Monica came to work at Mount Carmel, where she always put patient advocacy first. She was on the forefront of same-day surgery, preadmission testing and surgery scheduling and when she retired after 30 years in 2009, she was surgery coordinator preparing patients for vascular bypass surgery.
Steve was always nearby, assigned to Franklinton as shift sergeant with the Columbus Police Department. A veteran of the Tet Offensive who served with the 632nd Security Police Squadron in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam, he also served 21 years as a reservist with the U.S. Marine Corps.
When they retired together, Monica volunteered for Dr. Ann Schiele (now president emeritus, MCCN), helping patients at Lower Lights with their prescriptions. Monica started reading students’ scholarship essays for Dr. Schiele and Steve soon joined her. Today, she volunteers in the ED and NICU at the new Mount Carmel Grove City hospital.
“Even though I never attended Mount Carmel – I went to Grant for my nursing diploma because, with six sisters, I was lured by a private room in the dorm – MCCN’s mission and vision as a Catholic institution of higher learning, means a lot to us,” Monica asserts. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at Franklinton University before Mount Carmel School of Nursing transitioned into the College.
Still side-by-side, Steve and Monica recently chose to strengthen their ties – to honor their anchors – to Mount Carmel by establishing the Monica and Stephen Walter Scholarship Endowment Fund through a $100,000 Planned Gift. This generosity is in addition to the five $1,000 nursing scholarships they have already given annually since 2011 and will ensure that students with financial need will continue to receive the couple’s help for many years to come.
“We’ve always lived very frugal lives,” Steve notes. “We took simple vacations, live in a modest home and sometimes drove clunker cars, but it’s been a great life together and we want to give back where we know many future nurses will be positively impacted for a long time,” he adds.
Providing for Future and Present
Given the Walter’s extreme generosity, it was no surprise to Alyssa Fry, senior development officer for the College, when they both readily said, “We want to help,” when she described the need to establish a $25,000 Student Emergency Fund.
“When Alyssa explained how easily unexpected financial needs can derail a student’s plans, we understood,” Monica says. “In reading student essays, Steve and I have been amazed at the life experiences some students have overcome in answering their call to nursing and we want to be an ‘anchor in the storm’ for someone to make sure a temporary setback did not turn into a permanent loss for the nursing profession.”