(April 24, 2014) – Nearly 400 guests came together yesterday to “Share the Light” with keynote presenter Kristen Hertzenberg at the PARTNERS Spring Luncheon, the annual benefit event to support The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Nursing. The beautiful spring day was brightened even more by Mayor Annise D. Parker’s proclamation of April 23 as “Dean Patricia L. Starck Day.”
PARTNERS Board Chair Adrian Melissinos, Ph.D., R.N., presented Dean Starck with the organization’s first honorary endowed membership, as well as “several special gifts to commemorate her past service, continued service, and our gratitude for showing nurses and the community how to ‘Light the Way’ for the past 30 years.”
Dean Starck is stepping down later this year, after three extraordinary decades of leading the School of Nursing.
“As some call her, she is the ‘Dean of nursing school deans,’ and thanks to her leadership, the efforts of the faculty members, and the high caliber of our graduates, we are the leading nursing school in the state!” Melissinos said.
In her remarks, Dean Starck noted that both the university and the School of Nursing are 42 years old – “Not ‘young’ anymore, now we’re mature!”
“I have been here for 30 years,” she said. “So, PARTNERS has been with me two-thirds of my journey as dean and for about half of the school’s history – playing a huge role in supporting our growing reputation for excellence since 1994.”
Dean Starck recalled an “old country doctor” that she admired during her days as a young student nurse. “The creed that he lived by was ‘The service we give to others is the rent we pay for being on this earth,’” she said. “I think all of us in the health professions and those of you in PARTNERS and in our community who are here today live by this creed, too.”
Featured presenter Kristen Hertzenberg graduated from Kingwood High School in 1995 and earned university degrees in voice and opera. A versatile and much-admired soprano based in Las Vegas, she has starred as “Christine” in Phantom-The Las Vegas Spectacular at the Venetian Hotel and Million Dollar Quartet” at Harrah’s.
Hertzenberg spoke emotionally about her surgery for thyroid cancer in 2011, which threatened her vocal cords and her ability to sing professionally. During her chemotherapy and recovery, she gained a new admiration for the hard work and dedication of nurses.
“I got over the scary speed bump that life presented, and it left me feeling very fortunate and grateful,” said the vocalist and mother of a five-year-old daughter. “When we need care, nurses are there for us – and always with compassion.”
Hertzenberg closed the program by movingly singing the song, “Light a Candle” from her 2011 debut album, Holidays from the Heart, and received an enthusiastic standing ovation.
Major underwriters for the event at the River Oaks Country Club were: Katherine McGovern and the John P. McGovern Foundation; PARTNERS lifetime and board member Soraya McClelland, her husband Scott McClelland, and H-E-B; Texas Children’s Hospital; and honorary chairs Sheri and Ron Henriksen, who were recognized at the luncheon for their record of philanthropy and support of nursing education.
Sheri Henriksen, the 2010 PARTNERS chair, recounted how their older son, James (now a healthy 20-year-old), endured nine operations and spent more than three months in Texas Children’s Hospital in 1994. “The nurses did everything – even played with James when they had breaks,” she said. “Remember: there’s always a nurse with us when we need care and are at our most vulnerable.”
The Reverend Dr. Linda Christians from St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, a former nurse, offered the invocation and memorialized recently-deceased Mary Joe White, Ph.D., R.N., a much-beloved UTHealth School of Nursing faculty member for 36 years.
“I really did not leave nursing behind in 1987, but carry it with me in my ministry every day,” she observed.
Returning as Master of Ceremonies was four-time Emmy award-winner and HoustonPBS anchor/producer Ernie Manouse.
“In a small way today, we join in the mission of nurses everywhere and are deeply enriched,” Manouse said, as he demonstrated the place-setting gift of a PARTNERS orange-and-white penlight. “How wonderful it is to be a part of all who share their own personal light – look around – Houston’s humanity shines brightly! – take it home with you and ‘Light the Way’ for others!”
Carolyn Moody Drake, B.S.N., R.N., was the tireless luncheon chair. Mandy Kaplon Boyce, development program coordinator, supported PARTNERS for the Dean's Office.
“What a glorious day for nurses!” said Drake. “That megawatt talent of Kristen Hertzenberg knocked it out of the park. It has been awhile since I have seen a standing ovation at the River Oaks CC!”
PARTNERS, established in 1994, stands for “Providing Advancement Resources To Nursing Education, Research and Students.” To date, the organization holds a $1.8-million endowment to support scholarships, endowments, faculty research grants and student services.
Proceeds from the annual luncheon benefit programs and services for the UTHealth School of Nursing. This year marks the 20th anniversary of PARTNERS.
– David R. Bates, Communications Director