Noreen DeWire Grimmick is currently engaged in the practice of law from her office in Clifton Park, NY, where she resides with her husband, Dan Grimmick ’96, a disability claims nurse. Her legal practice is focused on civil cases and includes representation of employers and employees in workplace disputes, representing health care professionals before administrative agencies, and other matters. Ms. Grimmick recently celebrated 40 years as a nurse and 25 years as an attorney. Reach out to her.
What led you to Maria College?
“Man is his own star…” These words were written by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay “Self-Reliance”. My pursuit of my educational goals has always been inspired by these words; though informed by the time and context in which they were written. These words should equally apply to anyone regardless of gender, social status, race, age, or any other descriptive term you could think to apply. But I must admit, that at the time I applied to Maria College to enter the nursing program in 1974, as a married woman with a baby and limited financial resources, it was a stretch to think I could successfully embark on such a rigorous program. I considered a nursing career to be just beyond my reach. My husband was totally supportive and encouraging of my ambitions, so I dared to sit down with an admissions counselor at Maria to explore the possibilities. Life changed as a result.
Tell us about someone at Maria who made an impact.
The key to my successful transition to Maria College student was Sister Theresa who was a financial aid advisor. I explained my situation to her, and she didn’t immediately dismiss my aspirations as others did. Remember: time and context. In 1974, a young mother was not considered a favorable candidate for a comprehensive program of study by a broader segment of society. Indeed, one member of my extended family challenged me by stating dramatically: “You made your bed! Lie in it!” Surprising to me, Sister Theresa approached my situation from a very different perspective: she encouraged me! Now I had my husband and Sr. Theresa both believing that I was actually on the right path! Sr. Theresa told me that she would work with me to secure financial aid and she reassured me that when all was said and done, it was likely that I would graduate without any more student debt than a student who was enrolled in a similar state college program. I jumped in! I graduate two years later with a student loan of approximately $1000.00. Before you yell “HALLELUJA!”, please remember, we considered that to be a huge debt at the time. To put it in perspective, my husband who worked full time earned less than $10,000 in 1976, and I had just given birth to our second child, a beautiful baby girl.
What does your Maria degree mean to you?
I consider my nursing degree to have been the best investment I ever made. Putting aside the cost of education for a moment, this degree and the professional licensure it allowed me to secure awarded me the privilege of caring for people. It is a privilege to be present and meaningfully assist in the birth of an infant. It is a privilege to bathe a person who can no longer perform the simplest daily care. It is also a privilege to help reduce the pain of a dying person and support them as they pass. Nursing is, by its very nature, a privilege. Hold it dear.
My Maria College degree is the “Mother of All Degrees”, for me; and I have earned quite a few with the reinforcing faith of my husband and family. At a later point in my life, I earned a baccalaureate, a master’s degree, and a juris doctorate. I became an attorney. But this too, was born of my experience at Maria and as a nurse. Over time, I came to understand that the prejudice some people hold is really and simply born of ignorance. When I graduated from law school, during a celebration of that accomplishment, another member of the extended family stated: “So that nursing – that was just a waste, right?” I responded by politely saying “I guess you would have to ask my patients.”
Your husband, Dan, is also a Maria graduate. Tell us about that.
Twenty years after I graduated from Maria, I received an unexpected and unanticipated gift from Maria again! I was able to attend my husband’s graduation from the nursing program at Maria accompanied by our three grown children and our parents! By this time, our kids thought it was just normal for married people with families to continue their education while working. Initially, they reacted to Dan’s decision to go to nursing school by questioning where he would find a nursing uniform big enough to accommodate his 6’5″ frame. Though he had been a stunning sight as they remembered him in his old Marine Corps uniform, it was hard for all of us to picture him in a nurse’s uniform. I never doubted him. It was meant to be. We all began to see the caring side of Dan’s nature come into full bloom as a nurse. His supportive example taught me how to best support his aspirations as a student. My successful pursuit of my goals was also inspirational to him. We both shared our insights on how best to succeed with a different kind of “drill sergeant” by the name of “Esther McAvoy”. How incredible is this life, that before us unfolds all kinds of experiences we may never have thought of?
What piece of advice would you give current Maria students?
To any student entering Maria, I would encourage you to commit with faith to your dream. This college will provide more of the personal attention and care than you will likely ever find in any other educational environment. You will have to work harder than you ever imagined to achieve a dream. If you falter, it’s fair to re-examine and it’s important to re-evaluate your goals and maybe even adjust them to an objective that may be better suited to your own aptitudes and desires. These may change over time. Timing is important in your pursuits at any given stage. But in my opinion, it’s never acceptable to fully give up on yourself. Remember Emerson’s words: YOU are your own star!!