Lorraine Noll was famous for her we’ll-come-to-you outreach that in the late 1980s brought nursing instruction to Rhinelander, Woodruff and far-flung outposts across Northern Wisconsin.
In the days before the internet, she made the near-200-mile drive from her Two Rivers home in all seasons so dozens of student learners with busy lives and young families didn’t have to. Her trusty Toyota carried 300,000 miles on the odometer and bulging boxes of textbooks and lab equipment on the back seat.
“I call this my mission work,” Noll told an interviewer at the time, describing her weekly, two-day visit. “You can’t imagine how much it meant when we first brought these classes up there.”
Noll eventually parked her car, received associate professor emerita honors and retired from UW-Green Bay after 17 years of service in 2000. She passed away in September 2007, at age 75.
Her dedication to serving others, however, remains a vibrant part of the University’s nursing education program. The Lorraine M. Noll Memorial Nursing Scholarship program set in motion by her family will see to that.
“We want these scholarships to allow others to further their development in nursing,” says Lorraine’s son, Andy.
“Nursing, and sharing her knowledge of nursing, were her true passions. She touched many with her teaching at UWGB, and we hope these scholarships will afford others the same opportunity to touch the lives of others through nursing.”
Andy and his wife, Lisa Noll, were joined by his siblings and their spouses — Joseph and Sally Noll, Robert and Amy Noll and Donald and Sarah (Noll) Geiger — in creating the fund.
Lorraine Noll championed the establishment, in 1986, of UW-Green Bay satellite sites at Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff and Nicolet Community College in Rhinelander so nurses could pursue bachelor’s degrees. At the time, there was little access to higher education for registered nurses in the one-third of Wisconsin north of Highway 29.
Her students were men and women — most with full-time positions in hospitals or homecare — who wanted to supplement their two- or three-year clinical training. They wanted the advantages of a four-year degree including attention to research, management strategies and topics such as community health nursing. The bachelor’s credential was seen as especially crucial in the emerging field of public health nursing.
Noll was the face of the program: adviser, coordinator and, every third semester, instructor. For one-on-one advising sessions, she might detour from her northbound route to meet with students at hospital cafeterias, roadside cafes or even pre-arranged highway crossroads in her office on wheels.
Nowadays, distance learning is a viable alternative, and UW-Green Bay is a key player in continuing education for nurses living far from major population centers. It’s a market the circuit-riding Noll helped nurture. And her students appreciated her dedication and commitment.
“As we reminisced after her death we were going through papers and found a box of course evaluations from UWGB,” Andy recalls. We went through them and got to know our mother from a student’s perspective… The evaluations truly showed how much she touched the lives of her students as well.”
Among Noll’s many honors was the UW-Green Bay Founders Association Award for Excellence in Community Outreach. She also won a national award from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The organization brought her on stage at its 2000 national convention to honor her work in bringing visibility to nursing certification, and in reaching out to adult learners.
A native of Neillsville, Wis., Noll earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Alverno College and a master’s in nursing from UW-Oshkosh. In addition to her work at UW-Green Bay, she also taught for a time at Concordia University in Milwaukee. In the years before her death she spent time with her four children and six grandchildren, often visited old haunts in Red Wing, Minn., and completed a few more Labor Day walks across Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge.
The first Noll scholarship is likely to be awarded for the 2010-11 academic year.
Friends, former students and others interested in promoting nursing education can help grow the endowment by making personal gifts at www.uwgb.edu/giving/, or by contacting Lisa DeLeeuw, UW-Green Bay director of grants and development services, at (920) 465-2226.