Kathy Heniff

As Lewis University’s College of Nursing celebrates its 40th anniversary of its first graduating class, Katherine Heniff ’76, a student among the class of 25 students, is celebrating 40 years as a nurse. In total, she has 28 years of Obstetrical Nursing experience and 12 years of Out-Patient Surgical Nursing experience under her belt.

“I have loved every position I ever held over the years,” said Heniff. “I have always thought of being a Nurse as a rewarding career like a gift from God, almost a calling.”

Her very first position was at St. Margaret Hospital in Hammond, Indiana in Labor and Delivery. (Photo: Katherine Heniff (right) and Deborah Rudar(left) in the1970s) After seven years and being transferred to Kalamazoo, Michigan, her love for Obstetrical Nursing brought her to a new position at the Family Birthing Center at Borgess Hospital. There, she cared for women while they labored and delivered their newborn. After another seven years, and another transfer, she began as a staff nurse for four years on the midnight shift before a promotion to Assistant Nurse Manager for the next 10 years.  After 28 years of OB Nursing/Management, Heniff decided to learn something new.  She left OB to become the Team Leader for UnaSource out-patient surgery center in Troy, Michigan. It was the first time she was caring for male patients and children.

“I look back and reflect on how many wonderful people I have met and cared for over the years,” said Heniff. “It was not easy to move our family around so I could seek new positions, but I truly feel I am a richer person for it. The experiences I had have given me wonderful memories and everlasting friendships.”

Heniff always wanted to study nursing in college. After attending a local junior college for her freshman year, her psychology instructor encouraged her to transfer to a four-year college to earn a degree. So the search began.

She heard that the then Lewis College had recently opened enrollment to the female population and knew an old friend who was attending. She fell in love with the campus and everything it had to offer. The small size of the private college, location and the Christian values in their teachings at Lewis drew really drew her in.

There were no computers so taking notes in long hand was the norm for students back then.  There was one lab for practical learning and she traveled to various neighborhood hospitals around the Lockport area. Uniforms consisted of blue dresses with white polished shoes.

Heniff remembers her original nursing class to be over 50 students. She recalled a fear among a majority of the nursing students that they would graduate from a non-accredited college program. “I remember in our junior year, nursing students began to transfer to other nursing programs,” added Heniff. “I did not want to leave Lewis. I had patience and faith Lewis would succeed in their accreditation.”

She remained in the program that soon earned its accreditation – and was a proud member of Lewis University’s first College of Nursing graduating class in 1976.

“It is such a thrill to be part of the first graduating class!” exclaimed Heniff. “Our opinion counted. We were the trail blazers for future classes.”

Born in Chicago, Kathy now has lived in Michigan for the last 33 years. She and her husband, David, were married in 1978. She is the mother of three sons- David, Michael and Joseph – and is now a proud grandmother. She wishes all current nursing students a rewarding career in which they enjoy caring for their patients. She encourages students to face the challenges ahead, because it is worth it in the end.

To learn more about nursing at Lewis University or to make a gift to the program, visit www.lewisu.edu.



<< Back to decade


Did you know we have more than 40,000 alumni worldwide? Read feature stories and news items online about some of our most notable alumni. Read more.