STEPHENVILLE — Kristen Peacock is walking in some very familiar footprints.
The senior nursing major from Stephenville is following her grandmother’s path into a career as a healthcare professional. A path that began at Tarleton State University.
Her grandmother was in Tarleton’s first graduating class of nurses.
“I was extremely close to her. We would be together in the kitchen cooking, and she was always telling me stories about being a nurse in Hawaii, College Station, Chicago. She would tell me story after story. I was thinking, wow, she got to do all these amazing things and make such a difference in people’s lives.”
Kristen will share wisdom from her grandmother’s kitchen when she makes the commencement address at graduation exercises at 9 a.m. Friday.
Her drive toward a job in service to others came from both her grandparents, who hailed from Stephenville.
“My grandpa graduated from high school here,” she said. “My grandmother, of course, studied nursing at Tarleton. They were my biggest inspirations.”
And they both were instrumental in helping Kristen choose a career.
“He was a medic in Vietnam,” she said of her grandfather. “He would tell me these great stories of his time in the Army. ‘We had to learn how to do this and that. And since we were in the Army, they thought we were perfect to practice on each other.’ ”
Others in Kristen’s family added to her motivation to become a nurse.
Her brother had health issues that took the family across the country to some of the best healthcare facilities. Kristen had lots of questions, and it was the nurses who always made time to answer them.
“I was surrounded by all these amazing professionals. They always explained medication or equipment, or answered any question I had. When I got old enough, I promised my brother I’d do something to help people like these nurses helped him.
“He’s healthy today, still my annoying older brother.”
As she prepares to enter a demanding field, Kristen is confident her time at Tarleton prepared her for the challenge.
“I’ve learned so much, and I’m so comfortable with what I learned,” she said. “I can’t brag on my professors enough. Through all of the changes with COVID, they made it their mission to continue to teach and prepare us. They made extra study guides, extra PowerPoints. They’ve even done extra lectures.
“That wasn’t just unique to the nursing program, it’s been that way my whole time here. The time, the resources and the effort the whole faculty put in — they genuinely care.”
Now she’s preparing to leave Tarleton, but that doesn’t mean she’s forsaking her grandmother’s legacy. She’s moving to Abilene for a position in the operating room at Hendrick Medical Center.
“I didn’t know when I took the job that that was one of my grandmother’s first jobs after completing nursing school. It was right after she and my grandpa got married, and it was Abilene Regional Hospital at the time. She was also in the OR.”
Although she has mapped out her immediate future, Kristen has bigger plans. She’s getting married this summer, to a Marine she met as a freshman at Tarleton, and she hopes nursing is a springboard to a master’s degree, after which she plans to become a nurse practitioner.
First, however, comes Friday’s speech.
“It’s about persevering,” she said. “My college experience has had some trials. It’s about what had to happen to get me through those trials.
“Hopefully, the other graduates will be able to walk away feeling encouraged. Whatever life throws at you in this new chapter — new careers or grad school — you can come out of it, and you will persevere.”
Just listen to your grandma.