Nursing professor Mary Flikkema always enjoyed her science classes throughout high school, especially biology, but she wasn’t sure if she should pursue nursing in college. “All of my science labs in high school really inspired me, but in 1969, not many women were going into medicine,” Flikkema recalled. “But I knew I really liked caring for people and spending time with them.”
Flikkema decided to earn a health sciences bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University, then earned her master of science in nursing (MSN) degree from Grand Valley State University in 1989 in GVSU’s first graduating class in nursing. While earning her PhD in nursing, Flikkema began her 28-year journey as a professor—but first, at Hope College.
For many years, Calvin and Hope had a joint nursing program, which Flikkema taught in for a year by teaching one day at Hope, one day at Calvin, and two days in a hospital each week. “It is much better now that they are separate programs!” Flikkema said.
Flikkema’s favorite part about her Calvin experience was working with nursing students. “Nursing can be a pretty intense major—juniors are caring for very ill people almost immediately,” she said. “So working with my students and seeing them apply all they had learned was really neat.” Flikkema also enjoyed working with students on their research papers and helping them in the publishing process.
In addition to working with students in the nursing program, a highlight for Flikkema’s time at Calvin was serving as the NCAA and MIAA representative from Calvin for 12 years. “I learned a great deal about how specific and involved the rules are with sports. I thoroughly enjoyed being involved with all the sports,” she said. Since Flikkema’s specialty areas in nursing are critical and cardiac care, being involved with healthy, young athletes was often an encouraging contrast.
As Flikkema retired in January 2017, she already misses her colleagues, but not grading papers preparing for Monday morning classes at eight o’clock. What she especially misses are the spiritually challenging questions her students would ask her. “My students truly helped me grow spiritually as an individual,” she said. “The questions students asked were so great; for example, they would ask me how to care for a patient spiritually, not just physically. It made me think.”
So far, Flikkema has spent her retirement traveling to England with a friend and take Calvin’s CALL film class. She is interested in volunteering for Hospice care during retirement, as her husband was served well by the program before his passing. In addition to more traveling, volunteering and taking CALL classes, Flikkema looks forward to spending more time with her children and grandchildren.