West Nebraska Division Awards 2014

In 2014, the College of Nursing alumni hosted the first all school reunion for the West Nebraska General Hospital School of Nursing and UNMC College of Nursing West Nebraska Division.  The reunion was on September 12-13, 2014.  Five awards were presented during the reunion.

Distinguished Alumnus Award:  Marie Kreman, EdD, RN (Class of 1981)

Nursing Excellence Award: Betsy Walton, MSN-NP, MBA, RN (Class of 2010)

Dorothy Patach Spirit of Service Award: Clark Philson, BSN, RN (Class of 1995)

Honorary Alumnus Award: Joan McVay, MA, MSN, EdD, RN and Virginia Miller, BA, RN


Marie Kreman, EdD, RN (Class of 1981) Marie Kreman
Marie Kreman is the recipient of the 2014 West Nebraska Division Distinguished Alumnus Award from the UNMC College of Nursing Alumni Chapter. Marie began her nursing career as a diploma educated RN. In 1981, she earned her BSN from the UNMC College of Nursing. Throughout her impressive career, she specialized in Community Health. Marie joined the Faculty of the West Nebraska Division in 1992. During her teaching career, she advocated creation of clinical experiences in the hospitals and clinics in communities in the Nebraska Panhandle and on the Pine Ridge Reservation. This was indicative of her desire to both provide students with the best education possible and make a difference in communities across Nebraska. She saw this dream become a reality and worked throughout her time at UNMC developing and maintaining these vital links to many of the region’s healthcare centers. She earned her Doctorate in 1997. She was instrumental in the development of the UNMC Diabetic Clinic, located on East Overland. This Clinic was manned by nurse practitioners, one of whom was her daughter, Becky Kreman. The Clinic ran from 2000 to 2003. In 2007, Marie became Emeritus to her colleagues and students. She lives on a ranch which she and her husband, Jack, own near Crawford, Nebraska. The faculty of the West Nebraska Division continues to expand her vision of regional clinical sites allowing students the opportunity to practice with and learn from the staff in these clinics. She has made a positive impact on countless nursing students and practicing nurses across western Nebraska.

Betsy Walton, MSN-NP, MBA, RN (Class of 2010) Betsy Walton
Elizabeth “Betsy” Walton is the recipient of the 2014 West Nebraska Division Nursing Excellence Award from the UNMC College of Nursing Alumni Chapter. She was selected based on her nursing achievements before and after her graduation in December, 2010. Betsy truly earned a second degree when she came to UNMC. She had earned an MBA and was a successful manager at Hewlett Packard. After downsizing at the company, she listened to her daughter Jessica’s desire to become an RN and felt inspired to also pursue nursing. Betsy entered into the 3rd class of the West Nebraska Division Accelerated BSN Program. Betsy finished the program and immediately began to work toward earning her MSN through a Nurse Practitioner program. She earned her MSN and APRN from Duke University in May, 2013. This commitment to earning her nursing education demonstrates an impressive drive to serve patients and become a nurse leader. During her BSN program, Betsy coordinated a population clinical project working to decrease the birth rate of underprivileged teens in Mississippi. She spent her Spring Break implementing and evaluating her project. As she was preparing for nursing graduate school, Betsy moved back to Scottsbluff from Colorado to begin Healthy Families America with the Panhandle Public Health Department. Betsy managed the Program as she completed the Duke Program. Currently, Betsy practices as a Family Nurse Practitioner with Community Action Program- Western Nebraska (CAPWN) as well as manager for Healthy Families America. The Nursing Excellence Award is intended to recognize an outstanding alumnus who has graduated from the UNMC College of Nursing within the last five years. While she has achieved many things since graduating from UNMC, Betsy’s future in nursing is also bright.

Clark Philson, BSN, RN (Class of 1995) Clark Philson
Clark Philson is the recipient of the 2014 West Nebraska Division Dorothy Patach Spirit of Service Award from the UNMC College of Nursing Alumni Chapter. He is just the second person to receive this award, which was created in 2012 to honor nurses who also exemplify outstanding community service. Clark earned his BSN in 1995 and began his nursing career on a Medical/Oncology Unit.  He became a charge nurse, coordinating the patient care and delivery of that care. According to his clients and colleagues, Clark cares for their souls as well as their physical needs. His next career move was to Prairie Haven Hospice. Here he used the inherent independence of the position along with his concern for his clients and their families, to empower the persons he met to work and strive for the best of life. Many families of his Hospice clients have praised Clark for his genuine concern and practical help to make their loved one’s passing comfortable and peaceful. Families also report they appreciate Clark’s continued support after their loved one has passed away, helping families as they navigate this very difficult time. Currently, Clark is giving his unending nursing practice to long-term clients in the panhandle. To all who have worked with him, and to all his patients, Clark is recognized for this compassionate and client-centered care.

Joan McVay, MA, MSN, EdD, RN Joan McVay
Joan is the recipient of the 2014 West Nebraska Division Honorary Alumnus Award from the UNMC College of Nursing Alumni Chapter. Joan provided the academic background and structure to move the West Nebraska General Hospital School of Nursing to the West Nebraska Division of the College of Nursing. Instrumental in this role, Joan became the first Associate Dean for the West Nebraska Division. To borrow from the US Navy, she became the “rudder” for the ship. After she stepped down from that position, Joan remained a source of support and guidance to the faculty of the West Nebraska Division. Throughout her career, Joan has served the Scottsbluff-Gering community with her support for the Panhandle Substance Abuse Council, as well as the development of Panhandle Community Service, which today is called Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska. Since her well-deserved retirement from the College, she continues to work with Friends of Alzheimer’s and other Dementias providing education and support for clients with dementia and their caregivers. With all these accomplishments, Joan wrote this:“My greatest joy was in the teaching of clinical nursing. Assisting students to experience the art of nursing has been God’s gift to me and my life is rich.”

Virginia Miller, BA, RN Virginia Miller
In 1943, Virginia Mae (Smith) Miller graduated with a BA Degree from Hastings College, and received a Diploma from Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital School of Nursing. In 1943, all the graduates in the state went to Lincoln and wrote State Boards in the Senate Chamber of the State Capitol. They took Boards in Chemistry, Basic Sciences, O.B., Medical, Surgical, Pediatrics, and others. After passing these State Boards, Virginia became a certified RN, embarking on an impressive career in nursing.  Virginia, husband Wilton, children Catherine and David, moved to Scottsbluff, NE in March of 1952. In April, Virginia started at West Nebraska General Hospital doing staff work and had not even filled out an application. They soon discovered she had a degree and asked her to fill out an application and teach. She thought she did not want to teach. One day her “Patient Assignment” was “supervising new students.” She walked out of her “office” which was actually the Chart Room, and the Freshman Nursing Students were lined up in their crisp uniforms, waiting for their new Supervisor of New Students = surprise! In 1954, Virginia became the Director of the West Nebraska General Hospital School of Nursing. Virginia was loyal to the school and students even during difficult times. The School of Nursing, located at the hospital in downtown Scottsbluff, was on one wing of the 6th floor; the other wing became the Polio Wing with an Iron Lung. As Director of the School of Nursing, Virginia recruited students who took their first year of Sciences at the local Scottsbluff Junior College (1926-1965) Scotts Bluff College (1965-1968) Nebraska Western College (1968-1988) and then were admitted to the School of Nursing. She taught classes: Medical, Surgical, and Professional Relationships. She was asked to find a person to teach Basic Sociology for Social Workers so she joined the class and earned a Master of Social Work Degree. She was also on a committee to get a Mental Health Center created. Virginia, with the encouragement of Joan Cromer, worked to start a Neighborhood Family Service, located in the basement of Head Start. The student nurses helped staff the service that is now the Health Center at CAPWN. Eventually, Virginia and some of the faculty knew the Diploma School would soon become a thing of the past. She met with Deans and Directors of several schools to talk about “coming out West.” She did extensive research about the costs and feasibility of creating a school of nursing in Scottsbluff. She lobbied state senators and doctors and enlisted several key players in her cause. She kept talking with Dr. Charles Andrews, Chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical School, and he finally said they could take the program out West. Mission accomplished! Next, Virginia worked with the architect of the new hospital, Regional West Medical Center, to make dorm rooms that met the hospital specifications as the student population was changing. On two hospital wings in the Residence Hall there were married students, male students as well as female students. Virginia Miller was certainly a pioneer in Nursing for western Nebraska, and has left a legacy of wonderful, talented, and caring nurses! In 1986, she graduated her last students when she retired. She continues to encourage and support retired and current nurses. Virginia Miller has contributed for many years to the Regional West Medical Center Hospital Foundation giving numerous nursing scholarships. She was so proud of the graduates when she was Director of Nursing and continues to follow the careers of new scholarship recipients. She is the recipient of many awards, including the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s prestigious J.G. Elliott Award.