Founding College of Nursing Dean Shirley Martin dines with student honorees carrying on her legacy

by | Jun 24, 2019

Shirley A. Martin Nursing Scholarship recipients Donyell Nelson and Tatis Shelton and Distinguished Nurse Award winner Breaunna Perry had a chance to meet Martin at a lunch last week.
Shirley A. Martin scholarship and award honorees

From left, Donyell Nelson and Tatis Shelton, recipients of the Shirley A. Martin Nursing Scholarship, joined Shirley A. Martin Distinguished Nurse Award honoree Breaunna Perry in a lunch with Martin (center), the founding dean of the College of Nursing, and Current Dean Susan Dean-Baar (right) last week at Lombardo’s Restaurant. (Photo by Steve Walentik)

Donyell Nelson didn’t know who Shirley Martin was when she learned she’d been awarded the scholarship named in Martin’s honor.

Nelson, a graduate of Hazelwood Central High School, was a week or two shy of starting her freshman year studying nursing at the University of Missouri–St. Louis when she received that welcome news last August.

She took to Google to try to learn a bit about the founding dean of the College of Nursing, whose impact at UMSL has continued long after her 17-year tenure ended.

It wasn’t until last week, though, that the two had a chance to meet. Nelson joined fellow Shirley A. Martin Nursing Scholarship recipient Tatis Shelton and Shirley A. Martin Distinguished Nurse Award winner Breaunna Perry for lunch with Martin, current Dean Susan Dean-Baar, Assistant Dean of Student and Alumni Affairs Colette Dixon and Director of Development for Professional Programs Katie Harder at Lombardo’s Restaurant.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for some of our students to meet someone who was so instrumental in laying the foundation for the College of Nursing to advance the careers of so many nurses caring for patients across the St. Louis region and beyond,” Dean-Baar said. “For Shirley, she had a chance to see what talented students the college continues to mold.”

Martin, 91, has remained involved with the college since her retirement in 1997, serving on the College of Nursing Leadership Council and supporting the college through charitable giving. She also had a stint as interim dean in 2005.

Her legacy is remembered in the scholarships and awards that bear her name. The scholarship is targeted at pre-nursing students beginning their first year. The awards are presented annually to students who demonstrate outstanding personal and professional growth, reflected in voluntary participation in or contribution to programs in the College of Nursing.

The students enjoyed getting to meet her, learn about the history of the College of Nursing and discover a little more about Martin on a personal level, whether it was talking about the six cats she still cares for at home or a trip to Iran Martin made early in her career.

The latter was of particular interest to Shelton, a Normandy High School graduate, who aspires to become a traveling nurse after finishing her degree.

“Growing up, I really didn’t have the opportunity to travel, and I wanted to leave for school, but UMSL was so generous in covering the cost that I stayed here,” Shelton said. “This will be a way for me to see the world like I’ve always wanted and help people all over.”

The scholarship – valued at $2,000 annually – is not the only one Shelton has received, but it has been significant in helping her pursue her education.

The same is true of Nelson.

“This scholarship has given me the ability to partake in many campus organizations,” said Nelson, who has been involved in the Student Nurses Association, the Minority Student Nurses Association and Associated Black Collegians and this summer has been serving as an orientation leader for New Student Programs. “Had I not received this scholarship, I would have to spend my time working and trying to figure out how I would pay for school.”

Nelson, a sophomore, would like to pursue a DNP after completing her bachelor’s degree.

Perry already graduated in May and has started working in the post-partum unit at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. She is preparing to take her board exams in July to begin working as a registered nurse, and the award has given her confidence as she launches her career.

“Receiving this award was a huge deal for me because I didn’t know my cohort and professors thought so highly of me,” Perry said. “It was definitely a honor to be apart of such a wonderful program and to have come across such amazing people.”

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik