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It’s one of the most inspiring parts of the year – celebrating the winners of the prestigious Emily Anderson Resiliency Award.

A 1942 graduate of Nebraska Methodist College and longtime registered nurse, Emily Anderson began her career amid the gunfire and pandemonium of Omaha Beach on D-Day. Her medical detachment was among the first to come to shore.

The NMC Alumni Department awarded its first-ever Emily Anderson Resiliency Award in November 2020. It includes a one-time, $500 award to assist with education expenses.

Emily credited her resilience to the training she received at NMC. Each of our 2022 award winners exemplifies her spirit.

  • “My drive is accomplishing everything I can to make a better life for my kids and an impact on the future.”

     After her partner’s abrupt exit, Koren Gabrial was left with two young children to raise and a significant decision to make: continue pursuing her nursing degree or give up.

    “There is too much on the line for me to ever walk away from school,” Koren said. “I didn’t think it was going to be this hard, but that’s my driver – I won’t let that beat me.”

    Juggling motherhood, classes and part-time work, Koren sees her education as a way out of poverty; a path to better things for her six-year-old daughter and one-year-old son. She knows her own struggles will help her be a more empathetic nurse.

    “I know what poor feels like and what it looks like. I understand where those patients are coming from,” she said.

    As she hones her skill in caring for others, she’s also healing from her own emotional wounds.

    “I’ve grown so much from where I was – and it was not a good place. It was chaos. It feels so good to be where I am,” she said. “With all of the things that are in my way, I still did it. Not one person can take that from me.”

    In addition to the Emily Anderson Resiliency Award, Koren recently earned a $5,000 Jerry and Tim Scholarship, which aims to empower deserving students. Koren potentially sees herself working in an intensive care unit after graduation next year.

    “You can make an impact by working and understanding your craft – and by giving that back to your patients.”

    “Raising my kids by myself, I knew that failure wasn’t an option. I had to move forward to set a good example for them.”

    Marilou Roth is a mother first, a Nebraska Methodist College student second. When three of her four grown children were injured in a car crash – one seriously – she wound up failing a class. But even then, not by much.

    “I missed passing by a fraction of a percent,” Marilou said.

    The experience strengthened her determination to become a nurse and underscored the importance of compassionate care for her patients, “leading them in the direction of hope and understanding the psychologic aspect of what it is to be in the hospital.”

    Originally set on being a veterinarian, an allergy to pet dander diverted Marilou’s plans. After working in academia for almost 20 years, doing research and setting up teaching labs, she took a certified nursing assistant (CNA) class through Nebraska Methodist College – and loved it.

    “I thought if I can do this, I’m going to try nursing school.”

    Up until this senior year, the longtime single mom worked classes around a full-time job. She also helps care for her elderly mother and, in December 2020, arranged a wedding. She and husband Keith Placek will be settling in Spencer, NE, where Marilou has a geriatric nursing job waiting. She grew up in a rural community and is excited to return, considering “how badly health care professionals are needed.”

    On the path to becoming a registered nurse, Marilou has taken obstacles in stride. She credits her faith for guiding her and her parents for “instilling in us that we need to be strong and independent.”

    Her son, Lucas, who was seriously injured in the car crash, currently works as a CNA. An example of resilience too, he is thinking of following in his mother’s nursing footsteps.


    “Everyone has struggles they’re going through. If you smile and say, ‘Today is a new day; I’m going to make the best of it,’ then you’re going to be happier. And happiness spreads happiness.”

    Resilience is embedded in Katie Stuckenschmidt’s DNA. Her mother, 49, has been battling the ravages of multiple sclerosis for 30 years now. In 2021 – the day before Katie’s 20th birthday – doctors diagnosed her father with leukemia. 

    Faced with having to care for both parents, go to school and support the family as a full-time certified nursing assistant (CNA), Katie could have paused her education. Instead, she pushed through.

    “My resiliency comes from my parents – absolutely my parents. My father worked so hard to give my brother and me the best life. And I see the way that he helps my mom. My mom continues to fight each day, and she always has the biggest smile on her face. The reason I’m so strong is because of them.”

    Her mother’s condition is also the reason Katie got into nursing.

    “I took an anatomy class in high school and did a research project on MS. I put the pieces together on why everything was happening – and that’s when I fell in love with the medical field,” she said.

    It hasn’t been easy. With all the stress and strain, Katie did fail one of her nursing courses. She used that as another opportunity to demonstrate her resilience.

    “I’m not a quitter,” she said. “I re-took the class and I passed it. Now, I’m moving forward, loving my classes, and clinicals are amazing.”

    Through it all, Katie has kept a positive attitude.

    “Negativity doesn’t add anything. If you try to find the bright side, it completely changes the way you look at life.”

    “My resilience comes from my family. I need to make it in life so they know that their sacrifices weren’t for nothing.”

    Time and again, Thu Tran has demonstrated resilience in the face of intense adversity. Originally from Vietnam, she immigrated to Omaha as a teenager in 2011, three years after her father arrived.

    “It was a total change of environment, from the weather to the atmosphere, the people and language,” Thu recalled.

    With money extremely tight and her mother still in Vietnam, Thu, her sister and father lived in a rented basement. She powered through high school with quiet determination, overcoming the added challenge of having to learn English.

    “It was difficult going to school in a completely different environment. I remember being very closed off. The language was very difficult for me,” said Thu.

    After graduation, Thu started toward a career in pharmacy but soon realized her true passion was direct patient care. That seed was planted in third grade when Thu’s mother, a butcher, suffered a serious cut.

    “I just knew these doctors and nurses were heroes and that they were going to save my mother,” Thu said. “Ever since that day, I needed to be like them, to be someone who helps people in need and is a real hero on earth.”

    She’s well on her way. Thu started at NMC in 2018, the first in her family to go to college. Truly invested in taking care of others, she formed a network to ensure other immigrant students feel supported and know what resources are available. 

    “I understand, firsthand, the struggles that immigrant students have to face.”

    Despite them all, she’s forged her way in a new country with unwavering grit, compassion for others, and a drive to not let her family down.

    “My mom and dad worked so hard,” she said. “My resilience comes from my family.”