"I appreciated the fact you are in a classroom of your peers. They know what you are going through. They have family issues. They have work issues."
Heather Himes '12
Heather Himes celebrated her long-sought bachelor's degree in nursing not by walking across a stage in May of 2012, but by sitting on a riverside bench instead.
The bench was dedicated to her father, Dave Himes, who lost a fight with cancer in the fall of 2011. Now, so is the degree his daughter earned through the St. Ambrose University adult learning program.
Despite holding two jobs, one as a nurse in the orthopedic unit at Genesis Medical Center and the other as a clinical nursing instructor at Scott Community College, Heather Himes enrolled at St. Ambrose in pursuit of her bachelor's in 2007.
That's the same year her father's cancer was diagnosed, but Himes carried on with her schooling even while assisting her mother as a caregiver. Advisor Lori Harrison helped her shape a class schedule around her busy life. And Dave Himes made certain she kept up with her studies.
"It was almost funny to a point," remembered the daughter, who often did her homework at her father's hospital bedside. "He worried more about me getting my homework done that I did. Seriously, he would be like, 'Shouldn't you be doing your homework?"'
Himes might have struggled to finish her final year at St. Ambrose after her father died, but she said the SAU nursing department teaching staff stepped up to provide the encouragement dad no longer could.
"The instructors understood, too," she said, noting assistant professor Kathleen Andresen, DNP, MSN, RN, kept in constant contact. "Truthfully, had it not been for their support, I don't know if I would have been able to continue."
Andresen and others on the teaching staff were very helpful and involved, Himes said. She added that their approach is one she hopes to carry over into her own teaching.
"Continuing your education is very, very important, but it is also important to remember students have other things going on," said Himes, who found additional, ready support from her adult learning classmates at St. Ambrose. "I appreciated the fact you are in a classroom of your peers. They know what you're going through. They have family issues. They have work issues."
Himes was named the accelerated program's Outstanding Adult Student at the end of the 2011-2012 school year. "It overwhelmed me," she said. "I just thought I was one of a million who had issues, so it was very nice."
So was the quiet moment she and her mother shared on the bench by the Mississippi they had dedicated to her father.
Yes, Dave. Heather finished her homework.