Middle Tennessee State University alumnus Clyde Hall had 27 cents in his pocket when he graduated as a nurse anesthetist in 1975.
“I look back on it and I don’t know how I made it,” said Hall, who lived on $75 a month and lost 50 pounds during his 18 months of training. “I ate peanut butter and crackers — anything to survive on — and learned how to conserve money.”
Since 2015, 30 graduating nursing students have received the Marie Potts/Clyde Hall Personal Achievement Award, given to graduates during the graduate recognition and pinning ceremony held to honor traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing candidates. Three recipients were awarded at the fall 2023 ceremony held in mid-December in the Student Union Building on campus.
Hall said he didn’t want other students to struggle like he did. So he set up a scholarship fund that helps pave the way for other MTSU School of Nursing students who have persevered through tough times and make it to the finish line. Scholarships are awarded at the end of each fall and spring semesters.
“Clyde has attended every ceremony to present the award and personally interact with each recipient,” said Jenny Sauls, director of MTSU School of Nursing. “He wants to get to know them and offer his congratulations. He clearly derives joy from providing these scholarships and interacting with these graduates. Clyde continues to help people, just in a different way than he did during his career.”
Long road to success
Hall has never forgotten his rough road to the start of a successful 30-year career as a certified registered nurse anesthetist working with Dr. Fred Lovelace at Murfreesboro Anesthesia Group.
Hall had gone through a painful divorce that left him struggling to make ends meet, but he managed to finish school. He didn’t forget the heartache he endured and didn’t want anyone else to struggle like he did.
“When I graduated, it was the most wonderful day of my life,” Hall said. “I made a promise to myself I’d go back to MTSU and tell them I wanted to set up some type of scholarship for needy students.”
Hall set up an endowment eight years ago that provides scholarships to students who exhibit need. His money was combined with another donor, Marie Potts, to create the scholarships.
“He is excited to help these young graduates who are just beginning their nursing careers,” Sauls said. “He wants to make a difference for them and show his appreciation for their perseverance.”
Recipients of the award are nominated by classmates and selected by the Student Success Committee. Hall is always eager to meet the students following in his footsteps. Sometimes he’s encountered recipients by chance in the “real world.”
One year he learned the wife of a sales associate at a local hardware store he frequented received the award, which allowed her to pay for the nursing board examination.
At the emergency room a few years ago, he discovered the nurse caring for him received the award one year.
“It’s a joy and a thrill and a blessing that I know my money is being put to good use like I wanted,” Hall said.
Hall stepped on stage at the fall 2023 pinning ceremony to present the awards to three students: Naomi Tekeste, Hannah Moran and Madeleine Radford. All three faced challenges but made it to the finish line and graduated Dec. 16. Here are their stories.
Naomi Tekeste: Persevere through pain
For a decade, Naomi Tekeste has battled debilitating back pain that often leaves her immobile. Although the journey through school has been challenging, she promised herself that health struggles were not going to get in the way of her dream to become a nurse. In fact, frequent trips to the hospital gave her inspiration to become a nurse.
“I’ve been a patient and have felt the impact nurses make,” said Tekeste. “I have worked harder than ever these past few years to make it through this program. I’m proud to say that I’m here at the finish line … a testimony of God’s faithfulness to me.”
Hannah Moran: Overcoming grief
Navigating nursing school while grieving the death of a sibling seemed insurmountable at times for Hannah Moran. “There were moments when tears blurred my vision as I studied and attended lectures, my mind drifting to memories of my brother,” she said. “But I chose not to give up, even when it seemed impossible.”
In fact, nursing school bolstered her resilience and serves as a “testament to the strength that is in all of us.”
“I discovered the transformative power of empathy,” Moran said. “Every patient I encountered became a reminder of the fragility of life and the importance of compassionate care. My brother’s departure fueled my dedication to providing comfort and healing to those in need.”
Madeleine Radford: Rising above
Chaos and suffering ruled the childhood of Madeleine Radford, whose parents continue to grapple with addiction and mental health issues and who was set up to follow in their footsteps, she said. “I was never supposed to amount to anything.”
But there was a determination in Radford that far outweighed any difficulties life threw her way. Once in college, she rented an apartment and began the long road to a nursing degree.
“You may ask how I have gotten this far and that’s because I look at my parents’ mistakes as a lesson. They suffer every day,” said Radford, who has chosen a different path to pursue a successful career in nursing.
About the School of Nursing
MTSU’s School of Nursing offers degrees in nursing at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Graduates have a near 96% pass rate on the R.N. licensure exam on their first try and approximately 90% of the advanced practice nursing graduates successfully pass the nurse practitioner certification exam.
This high-demand career provides numerous employment opportunities, with 80% of graduates staying in the area to work at Middle Tennessee healthcare facilities.
To learn more, visit https://www.mtsu.edu/nursing/.
— Nancy DeGennaro (Nancy.DeGennaro@mtsu.edu)