Wider Horizons
Above: Carla Herbst (top), Kathy Herbst (bottom left), Michelle Herbst Sutor (bottom right).

What do you get a woman who’s about to turn 80 and has everything she needs?

That was the challenge facing sisters Carla Herbst (Nursing 1988) and Michelle Herbst Sutor (Nursing 1993) ahead of their mother’s milestone birthday this past July.

Wanting to celebrate not only an inspirational wife and mother, but her lengthy career as a Licensed Practical Nurse and her passion for lifelong learning, Carla, Michelle and their father, Stan, decided to create a Lethbridge College student award in the name of Katharina “Kathy” Herbst.

“In a time when women weren’t as recognized in the workforce, and after all her family had been through, she made sure she got an education,” says Carla. “When you have a desire to learn and to support yourself, you should be encouraged, and we want to do that for someone else.”

Kathy was born during the Second World War in an Austrian castle-turned-refugee camp and lived her first nine years at various German settlements around Europe. In 1953 she, along with her parents and seven siblings, immigrated to southern Alberta to work in the sugar beet fields.

As the youngest daughter, Kathy was never expected to go to college or have a career. Instead, she was encouraged to get married, have children and help care for her own parents as they aged. These traditional expectations didn’t stifle her desire to learn though, and she pursued a post-secondary education at SAIT’s School for Nursing Aids. She graduated in 1961.

Over the years, Kathy says she jumped at nearly every professional development opportunity that arose (and always with Stan’s support and encouragement), including a CPR Instructor course at Lethbridge College in 1989.

Knowing the value in education and the opportunities it creates, Kathy and Stan encouraged their daughters to go to college and pursue careers they were passionate about. Carla jokes that “nursing must be in our DNA,” because they both followed in their mother’s footsteps.

After graduating from Lethbridge College in 1988, Carla worked as a Registered Nurse on an antepartum/gynecology unit and now works in day surgery at Lethbridge’s Chinook Regional Hospital.

Michelle graduated in 1993 and worked as a RN in rural nursing, minor surgery, and as a nursing manager. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Saskatchewan in 2011, and works in renal dialysis at Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert, Sask.

“The student award in my mother’s name means so much to our family and its legacy of caring for others,” says Michelle. “My dad says, ‘The price of living is giving’ and that is true in many ways. This is one thing our family can do to honour our mom and a career she loved.”

The Katharina Martha Herbst Practical Nurse Award of $1,000 will be given to one graduate who has demonstrated exemplary care and kindness to their patients and who has an interest in lifelong learning. The first award, given out in the spring, also included a special gift – a new watch.

“As a nursing student, I had to have a watch with a secondhand,” says Kathy, “but I couldn’t afford one, so I borrowed my brother’s through school. So, when I finally got my first paycheque, I went to a jewelry store and bought my own.” The Herbst family says gifting the watch is a personal gesture they hope the recipient finds meaningful – and useful – in their nursing career.

Are you a multi-generational Lethbridge College family? If at least three members across one or more generations attended Lethbridge College, let us know by emailing [email protected]. We’d love to profile you.

Wider Horizons
Story by Tina Karst | Photo submitted
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