School of Nursing alumni association presents awards
Marilyn Bennett Justesen (right), MPH, MS, RN, class of 1983, receives the Alumna of the Year Award from Katty Joy French, PhD, RN, associate professor of nursing, School of Nursing.
In celebration of its alumni, the School of Nursing hosted its annual alumni weekend April 4 and April 5.
The weekend celebration, titled “Nursing: Mission Service Far and Near,” began with a vespers on Friday evening. The vespers featured “Nursing Near and Far.”
Zelne Zamora, MSN, RN, assistant professor of nursing, presented a slideshow featuring the highlights of each of the honored years.
On Sabbath, the golden anniversary class of 1958-A hosted first service at University Church, with the class of 1983 hosting Sabbath school and the golden anniversary class of 1958-B hosting second service. This was followed by a luncheon at the campus cafeteria.
Saturday evening was the Alumni Banquet held at Wong Kerlee International Conference Center.
Several awards were presented during the banquet, including two Alumna of the Year Awards to Hilda Bloomquist, MPH, MS, RN, class of 1958A, and Marilyn Bennett Justesen, MPH, MS, RN, class of 1983.
Hilda Bloomquist was born and raised in Missoula, Montana. Her work in health care started at a young age when she went to work at St. Patrick’s Hospital as a secretary and switchboard operator following her high school graduation. Later, Ms. Bloomquist earned a degree in business administration from the University of Montana. Following that she taught and was registrar at Adelphian Academy. Eventually, it was back to health care for Hilda.
She applied and was accepted at Loma Linda University School of Nursing. She was thought of as a “mature” student when she came to Loma Linda for a second career, compared with other students who were beginning nursing with no previous career track. Ms. Bloomquist graduated with her bachelor’s degree from Loma Linda University School of Nursing in 1958.
During her years as a nurse, Ms. Bloomquist worked as a charge nurse, director of nursing, and also a health educator in various states, including California, Maine, and New York. She also worked for a short time as a nurse at Hultafors Adventist Hospital in Sweden.
At Columbia University, Ms. Bloomquist received a master of science in nursing education. During her time in Brunswick, Maine, in addition to teaching community classes for four years, she conducted a daily radio program titled “Focus on Health.” While in Loma Linda, she took courses in public health.
Upon retirement, Ms. Bloomquist began a career as a writer for local newspapers. She has also worked as coordinator for the Coronary Health Improvement Project (CHIP). In 2006, Ms. Bloomquist began what she refers to as her “second retirement career” as a health lecturer on cruise ships. She has also been a health lecturer for her local church.
Ms. Bloomquist describes herself as blessed with a life that has afforded her opportunities to honor the Lord in many arenas of service.
Marilyn Bennett Justesen was born in Orlando, Florida, in 1944. Before she was 1 year old, she moved with her parents and older brother to Africa. She grew up there in various mission locations, where she learned to speak five different languages. When she was 14, the family returned to the United States.
Ms. Justesen attended Takoma Academy, and later finished her secondary education and the beginning of college at Southwestern Adventist Junior College in Texas. She received her bachelor of science in nursing at Loma Linda in 1967.
Then, in 1968, Ms. Justesen was called to Saigon Adventist Hospital in Vietnam for the purpose of starting a school of nursing. Such a task would be a challenge in the best of circumstances, but this was war time. She is the only American to have started a school of nursing during the war. Ms. Justesen has described her experiences in a book titled Help! What Do I Do Now: The Adventures of a Young Missionary in War-torn Vietnam. After her sojourn in Vietnam, Ms. Justesen was not quite ready to return to America.
Ms. Justesen continued her travels through several Asian, Middle Eastern, and North African countries. While visiting Nepal, she helped in the Adventist hospital there. The missionaries there paid her for her services by hiring a Sherpa guide and a team to accompany her on a trek to the foot of Mt. Everest. She was the first Caucasian woman to have her own expedition to this famous mountain.
When Ms. Justesen returned to the United States, she taught briefly at what is now Southern Adventist University in Tennessee. She received her master’s in public health in 1975 from LLU, where she also taught during that time in the School of Nursing.
Ms. Justesen’s next assignment took her to Tanzania, serving as nurse advisor in the development of an infrastructure for the maternal child health department for Tanzania. While there she climbed the legendary 19,000-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro. In 1983 Ms. Justesen completed her master of nursing degree at Loma Linda. Following that she returned Africa. She was assistant director of the Maluti Mission Hospital School of Nursing in Lesotho. Later she worked as a nurse consultant on two foreign aid health related projects in Sudan and Madagascar.
Not long after returning to the United States, Ms. Justesen met her husband, Jerry Justesen, a widower pastor with two teenage boys. She and Jerry were married in 1984.
Since then she has held several nursing positions in New York and North Carolina. She has also done significant fundraising work for various church projects. She also returned to teaching for state-sponsored universities in North Carolina. She was the only Adventist on a large campus, where she received several awards for excellence in teaching.
Ms. Justesen now lives in Florida, where she continues her active role as a teacher of the children in her church. She even manages to include a little health teaching there along with her role as a certified parish nurse.
Receiving the distinguished leadership award posthumously was Marilyn Christian Gearing Smith, EdD, MSN, FAAN, former dean of the School of Nursing.
Marilyn Christian was born in 1933 into a family dedicated to health care. Her father was a minister/ health educator, and her mother was a public health nurse. Inspired by the opportunities that nursing afforded, she enrolled in the nursing program at Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, Maryland, where she received her baccalaureate degree in nursing in 1954. Dr. Gearing decided to continue her education in the Washington, D.C., area at Catholic University of America and earned her MSN degree in nursing administration and community health in 1957.
In July of 1963, Dr. Gearing started her career at Loma Linda University as assistant professor and acting chair of community health nursing in the School of Nursing. In 1968 she was selected as dean-elect and continued as professor of community health nursing until her appointment as dean and professor of LLUSN in 1969. During her 12-year tenure as dean, Dr. Gearing served in a variety of professional organizations and national taskforces on federal health legislation. She was elected national president of the American Association of Seventh-day Adventist Nurses from 1972 to 1975. Her international experiences included working with the maternal health care needs in Tanzania and serving as speaker at a nursing workshop at Beijing Medical University in China.
In between her very busy schedule of administration as well as national and international efforts, she obtained an EdD degree in higher education from the University of Southern California in 1974. She was also named a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 1979—one of the highest distinctions a nursing professional can be awarded.
Though greatly committed to her profession, Dr. Gearing did find time for family life. On Valentine’s day, 1980, she married Maurice Eugene Smith. Together they enjoyed many years of traveling and sharing God’s love through various church ministries. In 1990 she returned to teaching and was active in many community organizations. Dr. Gearing worked very closely with the Loma Linda University Church to create a parish nursing program as part of the community health experience for senior nursing students. This program continues to be offered through ACTS (Adventist Community Team Services).
During her six-year illness with lymphoma, she remained cheerful, optimistic, and thankful to God for each day that she could be a blessing to others. On February 12, 2008, she passed away. She leaves a legacy of excellence in nursing education and practice. Nursing students, faculty, administrators, researchers, and their patients continue to reap the benefits of her life-long devotion to the nursing profession and health for all peoples.
For many years, the alumni association has had as one of its goals to recognize excellence in students and alumni through awards. An Alumna of the Year Award has been presented to deserving alumni since 1967. But the alumni board was concerned that the organization’s goal was not being fully met, since students achieving excellence were not being recognized. A committee was formed and the description, criteria, eligibility, nature of the award, and procedure for application were created in 1995. The first Merit Scholarships were given in 1996. The Merit Scholarship is conferred annually to a minimum of one undergraduate student, one graduate student, and one doctoral student who best demonstrate excellence in their respective programs. The award criteria are based on the purposes of Sigma Theta Tau International, the Honor Society of Nursing.
Undergraduate nominees for the award must have completed 45 units, and graduate and doctoral nominees must have completed 20 units in residence of their respective programs; have achieved a GPA of 3.7 or higher; be committed to completing their respective programs; and be able to meet the award criteria. These criteria are intended to identify students who demonstrate excellence in their academic professional preparation.
Receiving Merit Scholarships for 2008 are Ned Cabaluna, Michelle Meert, Ji Kwan (Jake) Park, Rebecca Estanque, RN, and Joyce Volsch, MS, RN.
A missions report was also presented during the banquet, highlighting the mission work that was supported by the alumni during 2007 and 2008.
This year the mission committee decided to make Adventist nursing schools in Third World countries the recipients of most of the $6,500 in available funds. Examples include: tuition assistance for a future nursing student in Guyana, audio-visual supplies for the Adventist nursing school in Mexico, nursing journals for the Adventist nursing school in the Caribbean, and financial assistance for the Adventist nursing school in Maluti, Africa. The committee will also be providing financial assistance to LLU nursing students for short-term mission service this summer.
Following the missions report was the House of Thrift report. During the past fiscal year, the alumni association received $20,000 from the House of Thrift profits. These funds were used for alumni association projects. In addition, clothes, bedding, food, and other items exceeding $900,000 were donated to several organizations including: ADRA; Banning Community Services; House of Mercy, Mexico; Loma Linda Romanian Church; and the Banning School District.
By Dustin Jones, MA