Wesleyan Women of Distinction – Marian (Helm) Smith ’85

My current employment

“I am currently employed at Elsevier, Inc., a global leader in health information and analytics, and my title is Nursing Faculty Manager within the Nursing & Health Education eSolutions Division. We assist researchers, institutions of higher education and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society through health education digital products. More specifically, I work with two product lines that assist nursing faculty and students across the United States meet outcomes of passing the NCLEX (national exam for nursing licensure).”

My family

“I have been married to Rev. Dr. Jay F. Smith ’85 for 36 years. He is a Kentucky Conference United Methodist minister and currently is the Owensboro District superintendent.

“Our son, Jericho Smith, has a master of arts in education with an emphasis in student affairs and counseling from Western Kentucky University. He lives in Owensboro and works at Owensboro Community College and Mary Kendall Campus, United Methodist Homes for Children and Youth.

“Jay and I met at KWC. We were both very involved in campus life and Christian ministries. Our first date was Jan. 9, 1983. I received flowers every month on the 9th for a year. We were engaged on Jan. 9, 1984, and married June 9, 1984. Jay proposed in the chapel at KWC, and President Luther White was the first person to know. We came out of the chapel, and he was working late in the office – that was really fun to let him know first!  We got married at my home church in Columbia, Ky. Rev. Dr. Phil Hill ’77, the chaplain at KWC, performed the ceremony.”

My years at Wesleyan

“My childhood and high school years were spent in rural Adair County on a dairy farm.  While in high school, I knew that to attend college, I would need to be responsible for my entire journey. I studied hard in high school and interviewed for scholarships on a Scholarship Day at KWC. I was awarded a Presidential Scholarship, and my prayer was that I would be able to attend KWC after visiting the campus that day. I am also a United Methodist and coming to Wesleyan was just a dream come true for me. I am a first-generation college student. Kentucky Wesleyan set the trajectory for my entire life.

“Looking back on my experiences at KWC, I know they absolutely provided the framework and foundation for my personal and professional life.

“Personally, KWC provided a loving community that was formed by living in the dorms, being engaged in clubs and organizations, screaming with the band and pep club at basketball games and other sports events and being supported by a wonderful Christian community. Relationships formed at KWC are some of the most foundational and cherished of my life. I have so many fond memories. My professors were incredible.

“A fun memory – being a member of the club that a few science majors created was the first developmental stage of becoming radical! Under the leadership of some biology and chemistry majors, the Greek club known as the Muons was created. I was one of the first “muonettes.” The muon (/ˈmjuːɒn/; from the Greek letter mu (μ) used to represent it) is an elementary particle similar to the electron. Most of the cosmic muons have a high energy and travel at speeds close to the speed of light in a vacuum. Therefore, we were known for being the intramural sports team to avoid –  so much fun!  We were also known to paint Minerva orange (our color) at times!

“Professionally, I did not know exactly what I wanted to do when I came to KWC, but I did love the sciences. Initially, I was a science major. I then realized that though I loved the sciences, living that out must be beyond the bounds of a laboratory.

“One day during Dr. Davenport’s genetics lab, I looked out the window and saw the nursing students coming back from clinical, and I knew then that I wanted to pursue that journey. It just seemed like working with people would be much more fulfilling than working with fruit flies.

“I spoke with the nursing faculty, and the rest is history. I switched majors, and my journey as a nurse began. I absolutely loved the faculty, my classmates and the major. I remember so many hours of studying, practicing in the lab and being in clinical at the hospitals. Being a nursing major was everything I had hoped it would be; but the academic rigor, work and dedication should not be underestimated. Nursing required complete focus and attention to succeed.”

My career

“After graduating from KWC in 1985, Jay and I headed to Atlanta, Ga. Jay began seminary at Candler School of Theology, and I started working at Emory University Hospital. This was the beginning of my nursing career, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to begin my professional journey at Emory.

“Every day was an educational journey steeped in research and evidence-based practice. I worked at Emory during the HIV-AIDS epidemic. We were one of the first hospitals to work with clinical trials. Working with HIV patients also taught me so much about epidemiology and community health. Though the unit I worked on was very high acute post-operative care, we also treated patients from all over the southeastern United States with very complicated clinical presentations.

“When Jay graduated, we returned to Kentucky and I accepted a position at Ohio County Hospital to research and start a hospice and palliative care program in the community. This was another foundational piece of my professional journey. I can easily say serving as the hospice executive director was some of the most important work related to assisting patients and families through the entire life trajectory. It was incredibly demanding and rewarding!

“While serving as the hospice executive director, I returned to school and started my journey to additional nursing degree completion. Before I completed by BSN, I applied to teach nursing at Kentucky Wesleyan College. I could not believe I would have the opportunity to teach at KWC. I taught for six years, and that was my second time to ‘learn’ at KWC. I was now a colleague with my professors, and I could sit under their tutelage to learn how to be a master teacher. It was an incredible experience. I owe them so very much! Thank you, Dr. Beth Johnson and Dr. Rose Clark; your life’s work does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

“Through mentors like my nursing professors at Kentucky Wesleyan, I was encouraged and supported to return to complete further degrees. One of my favorite quotes is ‘Ancar Imparo’ – ‘Yet, I am learning!’ Teaching and learning have been my life’s work.

“My nursing education career has been enriched by opportunities to teach at Bellarmine University, Murray State University, Lindsey Wilson College and Western Kentucky University. I am grateful for the opportunity to now assist programs of nursing at the national and international levels. I love to be involved with community service and outreach and feel I can do that through faith community nursing and my profession.

“Having taught public health nursing and epidemiology for years, I never imagined that we would truly live this pandemic experience of COVID-19.  At the time of this writing, I am so concerned for the outcomes of the pandemic on our communities, our health care systems and our individual families. We need more nurses; my hope is that this unprecedented time will cultivate the calling for others to enter this wonderful profession. The world needs wonderful, caring and intelligent nurses. I am amazed how my former students are leading and navigating this journey. They inspire and motivate me every day!”

What Wesleyan means to me

“Kentucky Wesleyan has such a bright future. The College’s history gives strength to the mission and vision. The faculty, staff, administration and students give hope to the vision. KWC invested in me. I am not alone. Each student attending KWC receives the absolute best undergraduate education in the world – the personal and professional trajectory of my life formed at KWC. I am so very grateful!”