Beverly (Bev) Kirby Deaton

2022 Distinguished Alumna

Mrs. Deaton is a graduate of St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing, class of 1963. She spent most of her professional life at St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield, Ill. She held multiple positions from staff nurse to chief nursing officer. While working in this rural hospital, she had state, national and world-wide nursing experiences that furthered our profession.

She was an early champion of RN-BSN as well as MSN programs. Obtaining her BSN from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIU-E) in 1986 and her MSN from SIU-E in 1995. Throughout her career, Bev was a mentor to others, encouraging them with formal education, as well as the pursuit of specialty certifications.

Bev promoted education for nurses and physicians alike. As a member of NAACOG and then AWHONN, she was an instructor, as well as instructor trainer, for electronic fetal monitoring. She also taught neonatal resuscitation. For new and expectant parents, she taught childbirth preparation and lactation courses. Because of her expertise, Bev also had the opportunity to serve as an expert witness in malpractice cases, assisting in the defense of claims against nurses.

Throughout her career, Bev strove for excellence in the care of mothers, infants and their families. It does not matter the size or location of the health care institution, excellence in care to all patients matters. When the federal government introduced the Critical Access Hospital initiative, she worked with the St. Francis Hospital Board of Directors to apply for and gain this designation. This provides reimbursement for Medicare dollars at an increased rate, assisting rural hospitals to remain open and able to care for the citizens of their communities.

Bev has served on multiple committees and boards, including the St. John’s Alumni Board. She also served on AWHONN boards at local, state and national levels. As the national president of AWHONN, she was able to participate in a cultural nursing exchange to Asia. I may have the quote incorrect, but she said of that trip, “While the conditions are not what we are used to by USA standards, they really are doing the best they can with their available resources. It is important to encourage other health care professionals as they care for people especially mothers and infants worldwide.”

Throughout her career she has been a mentor to others.

Bev officially retired from nursing in 2011. However, her lifelong passion of nursing remains part of who she is, a St. John’s College alumnus who has made significant contributions to nursing.


2021 Distinguished Alumna

Dr. Jill Engel serves as the Associate Vice President for Heart Services for Nursing, Operations & Patient Care Services and Interim Vice President (VP) and Service Line Executive of Heart & Vascular Services for Duke University Health System. Since starting her career at Duke, Jill has held a variety of clinical and administrative positions including Clinical Operations Director for Advanced Practice and Associate Chief Nursing Office for Heart Services. In addition to her leadership roles, Jill has maintained her bedside practice as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (NP) in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit at Duke University Hospital where she staffs per diem.

Dr. Engel serves as a reviewer for The Journal of Nurse Practitioners and has published and presented nationally and internationally on a variety of clinical, operational and leadership topics, including Enhanced Recovery after Cardiac Surgery, Cardiac Surgery Advanced Life Support, advanced practice provider models of care.  Dr. Engel is a member of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Sigma Theta Tau, the American College of Cardiology and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons where she serves on the Multidisciplinary Membership Committee. Dr. Engel is certified as a NP in Acute Care, Family and Adult specialties, and maintains her Critical Care RN (CCRN) and CCRN Cardiac Surgery Specialist certifications as well as her Nurse Executive Advanced Certification. Dr. Engel was inducted as a fellow into the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners in 2011 and completed the GE Health Management Academy Nurse Executive Fellows Program in 2018.

Dr. Engel received a Diploma in Nursing from St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing in 1985 and completed a BSN, MSN and Post-Masters’ NP Certificate from the University of Illinois in Chicago. Dr. Engel completed a Doctor of Nursing Practice and became a Post Doctorate Quality Implementation Scholar at Duke University School of Nursing in Durham, NC where she also serves as Clinical Associate Faculty. Jill lives in Morrisville, North Carolina with her husband Samuel who is the Associate Dean of Education at Campbell University.  

Dr. H. Catherine Miller

2020 Distinguished Alumna

St. John’s College of Nursing Alumni Association has selected Dr. H. Catherine Miller as the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Alumna Award.

Dr. Miller is a 1970 graduate of St. John’s School of Nursing. She received a BS degree from Sangamon State University in 1981, a Master’s degree from SIU, Edwardsville in 1986, and completed her doctoral degree in Educational Organizations & Leadership, Higher Education Administration in 2009. Catherine was nominated by Ruth Nonneman, Gail Petro, Marsha McFall and Cindy Trainor.

This group of colleagues taught together at St. John’s School/College of Nursing. They accomplished their master’s degrees together and have remained friends ever since. A lifelong learner, Catherine continues to develop by attending current conferences (2019), presenting on varied topics that enhance excellence in nursing practice. Catherine has helped many communities through presentations and consulting.

As a faculty member Catherine was committed to teaching excellence in nursing through research-base theory and interventions. She always emphasized a caring approach that treated the patient as whole, with mind, body and spiritual needs.

Catherine served as the Assistant Director of St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing  from 1988 to 1990. Catherine emulates all the characteristics we hold dear when you look at the St. John’s Nursing pin and think excellence in all aspects of nursing.  has worked diligently through her career as a steward of quality nursing practice.

 Gail Petro worked with Catherine at St. John’s School/College of nursing and Illinois State University/Mennonite College of Nursing. In Catherine’s role as Associate Dean for Academics and Interim Dean, Gail always found Catherine to  be prepared for meetings able to answer all questions. Her sense of duty was foremost when she provided support for the curriculum, faculty and students. Review of the pre-licensure program course content, objectives, student progress and needs of the faculty were the underpinnings that guided Catherine each time they met. Catherine’s knowledge, guidance and strong work ethic is much appreciated. Her communication skills and ability to listen along with her passion for teaching were always evident when meeting.  

Most appreciated was Catherine’s knowledge of education and her lived  experiences with committee work at the university level and outside the university, that provided a strong base for us to make correct that supported the nursing program’s philosophy. Catherine was most supportive in talking with students  experiencing  difficulties in their education. She worked with diversity students through her development of a diversity grant to help them achieve their best in nursing.

Catherine’s love for history and her strong work ethic led her to create the 100th anniversary book of the history of Mennonite College of Nursing. Catherine is a great example of St. John’s core values for nursing, care, respect, competence and joy. Therefore, we nominate Dr. Catherine Miller as the 2020 Distinguished Alumni.  


Kelly Reichart

2019 Distinguished Alumna

Kelly graduated from St. John's School of Nursing in 1991 and initially followed her passion for labor and delivery. She states that Mrs. Vann was instrumental in her first career choice of delivering babies! She met her husband, a Springfield native and they both moved to Ohio in 2003.  Kelly continued her career as being a labor and delivery nurse while her and her husband started a family.

At the age of 35, Kelly was diagnosed with stage 2b breast cancer. A devastating diagnosis for happily married mother of two boys (ages 3 and 6).  After healing from treatment, Kelly wished to return to school to further her education so that she might make a difference in the lives of nursing students, her community and other cancer survivors. She is very involved in breast cancer survivor-ship. Especially, the long-term effects of treatment and how to assess and manage them.  She has an article that will be published next month in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing entitled: Improving Lymphedema Screening and Treatment for At Risk Breast Cancer Survivors.

Her Curriculum Vitae is impressive for all her recent accomplishments while raising two, now, teenage boys, keeping a husband happy, remaining a 10 plus year cancer survivor, working in the community and working full time educating nursing students the core values of what our nursing education provided for us back in 1991. Her life experience offers a unique perspective not only to her students but to her colleagues and patients.

Kelly truly demonstrates our core values: innovation, leadership, competence, life-long learning, justice, mutual respect, stewardship and wholism inclusive of caring, joy and spiritual growth.

Sister Marybeth Culnan, OSF

2018 Distinguished Alumna

On Friday, May 18, 2018 Sister Marybeth Culnan, OSF, was honored as the 2018 distinguished alumna by the St. John’s College of Nursing Alumni Association. Sister Marybeth is the oldest of three, with one brother and one sister. They lived with their parents on a farm and went to a one-room country school which was a one-mile walk to and from each day. After she finished fourth grade, she and her siblings were enrolled in a catholic grade school in Lincoln, IL. She always wanted to be a nurse, so after high school she enrolled at St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing “because of its good reputation, and it was close to her home.” She met the Hospital Sisters at St. John’s and was impressed by their willingness to do hard work, their happiness in doing little things for others and their coming together for prayer. Sister Marybeth graduated from St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing in 1960 and entered the American Province of the Hospital Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis that same year. She received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Marillac College in St. Louis and was assigned to HSHS St. Vincent’s Hospital in Green Bay, Wisc. She then went on to many other accomplishments in her career and education. Sister Marybeth stated, “The most important thing in my life is to do God’s will.” It seems he kept her quite busy these last 57-plus years. She has served the needs of the communities in which she has worked by guiding and supporting the administrators of the HSHS hospitals. She has seen many good things happen at the hospitals, which she humbly attributes to the Sisters, the employees, physicians and volunteers.

Lauretta (Metzger) Hildebrand

2017 Distinguished Alumna

Lauretta (Metzger) Hildebrand is a class of 1952 graduate. She was nominated by her granddaughter, Caitlyn (Sullivan) Fox. Caitlyn is also an alumna from the class of 2012. Lauretta began working at St. John’s Hospital when she was a senior in high school as a nurse’s aide, and retired as a registered nurse in 1996. Lauretta had a wide range of nursing experience at St. John’s, from the surgical department to pediatrics and the medical unit. Her service contributions are impressive as well. She is currently participating in several of these programs: Friend–In-Deed, Meals on Wheels-Catholic Charities, Legion of Mary Association, Altar and Rosary Society- St. Aloysius, St. Clare’s Health Clinic-Catholic Charities, and St. John’s Alumni Association Annual Scholarship Donor. Lauretta is very supportive of the alumni scholarship program because it allows perspective students to follow their goals and dreams of becoming a nurse.

Lauretta’s granddaughter writes, “Lauretta finally decided to retire from Springfield Clinic’s ambulatory surgical center in 2006 at 74 years young! Lorretta’s wish is to be remembered for her compassionate, empathetic, caring and adaptable characteristics while providing a holistic approach to those she served. She recounted stories of the numbers of people she cared for during her career at St. John’s Hospital, including those with multiple diseases such a tuberculosis, polio and HIV. She provided high quality care to each person she served, regardless of his or her age, sex, socioeconomic status, medical conditions or diseases. She also performed ‘mental exercises’ with her patients, as a patient’s mind and spiritual well-being was just as important as their physical health.”

Lauretta’s professional and personal accomplishments are a testament to our mission of providing Christ’s healing love to all people. She is certainly a role model for all professional registered nurses and especially for our St. John’s College of Nursing students. 

Marjorie Beyers, PhD

2016 Distinguished Alumna

Beyers has served nursing and healthcare professions throughout her career. Her work includes over 10 books, numerous articles and publications, over 300 speeches, presentations, workshops and memberships on numerous committees. 

Before her retirement in 2000, she was the Executive Director of the National Commission on Nursing, Director of Evanston Hospital School of Nursing, Vice President of Nursing and Allied Health at Mercy Health Services, a tenured professor at University of Texas at Austin, and the Executive Director for the National Commission of Nursing. Since her retirement, she has served as a consultant for nursing and patient care in hospitals and health care systems. She served as the Interim Chancellor at St. Johns College in Springfield, Illinois. 

Beyers has served as a member of numerous editorial boards. She is an emeritus Board member of Catholic Health Initiatives, was a member of the Catholic Health Initiatives Board Quality and Safety Committee, the Christu's Health Board Quality Committee, and the Nursing Spectrum Advisory Board member. She was also a member of the Advisory Board for St. Xavier's College School of Nursing and is an advisory member of Loyola University of Chicago School of Nursing. 

Beyers has received many awards and honors including the Pana, Illinois Hall of Fame, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Indiana University School of Nursing, and the Distinguished Service Award from Mercy College in Detroit, Michigan. She received the Top 100 Legacy Leaders award from Indiana University in 2014. She graduated from St. John’s School of Nursing in 1957, and she received the baccalaureate and master’s degrees from Indiana University and a PhD from Northwestern University. 

Sister Joel Jacobi, OSF

2015 Distinguished Alumna

Sister Joel entered eternal life on December 13, 2015.

Born in Belleville, Illinois, Sister Joel Jacobi professed First Vows with the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis on October 4, 1938. She graduated from St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing in 1941.

For nearly 15 years, Sister Joel worked as a staff nurse providing direct patient care and later in a supervisory capacity. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing from St. Louis University (1955) and a master’s degree in nursing from The Catholic University of America (1959), she assumed the role of nurse educator. She taught at St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing, Marillac College (St. Louis), and the University of Wisconsin-eau Claire for the next 40 years. 

As a teacher, Sister Joel reminded her students to “think of patients not simply as a room number but more importantly as a person created in God’s image.” Furthermore, her advice to students and people in general was to be compassionate and competent while caring for one’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.” 

Following the example of St. Francis of Assisi, Sister Joel and several other Sisters began to feed the poor in Eau Claire in 1979 with excess food from Sacred Heart Hospital. This ministry’s humble beginnings from the Sisters’ convent garage expanded into St. Francis Food Pantry, an organization that serves nearly 600 families per week and is supported by various local individuals and organizations. 

Sister Joel resides at St. Francis Convent and is faithful to her ministry of prayer. “I have been blessed with a most rewarding life as a Hospital Sister and give thanks to God for the journey – his guiding hand was ever-present to me.”    

Sister Jonette Devlin, OSF

2014 Distinguished Alumna

Sister Jonette entered the Congregation of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, Springfield, IL, on September 8, 1946 and professed First Vows on June 13, 1949. She is a graduate of St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing, Springfield, IL, and earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in nursing from St. Louis University. 

From 1954-69, she served at St. John’s Hospital, Springfield, and St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing as a clinical instructor, organized the first Intensive Care Unit (ICU) that opened on May 3, 1965, and was the supervisor of the ICU. 

From 1971-2013, she served at St. Vincent Hospital, Green Bay, WI, as a Clinical Nurse Specialist of the three Critical Care Units. She was the first clinical nurse specialist at St. Vincent Hospital and was responsible for teaching the registered nurses in the hospital’s adult Critical Care Units and throughout the hospital. She also taught at local nursing programs and was a preceptor for students in master’s programs for colleges in Wisconsin and Michigan. While at St. Vincent in the 1970s, she developed the renal dialysis program and the organ donation program – both of which continue today. Also in the 1970s, she provided outreach in the community by offering pacemaker clinics and blood pressure screenings and working with the National Kidney Foundation of Wisconsin. 

Sister Jonette dedicated nearly 60 years of her life to nursing education and continues to volunteer at St. John’s Hospital and St. John’s Breadline. “As a teacher, I always wanted each nurse to be the best he or she could possibly be and learn something new each day. I also reminded them that they were taking care of God’s children,” said Sister Jonette.

Kate Scherzer

2013 Distinguished Alumna

Kate Scherzer entered eternal life on January 8, 2016.

Kate served at St. John’s Hospital for 42 years caring for premature babies. Her devotion to caring for tiny babies between 1945 and 1987 is legendary. “This has always been the love of my life. My heart was dedicated to the babies,” said Kate during a reception in 2005 in which a special plaque honoring her was unveiled outside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at St. John’s Children’s Hospital.

“Kate represents the very best in the nursing profession. Her commitment to caring for the most vulnerable and her selfless dedication and duty to her patients and colleagues makes her worthy of this honor,” said Brenda Jeffers, RN, PhD, Chancellor, St. John’s College.

Kate entered St. John’s School of Nursing in 1942 immediately after graduating from Pana High School. Even before she graduated from St. John’s in 1945, she was given an opportunity to care for premature babies. Over the years, Kate was instrumental in advancing the care for premature babies. In the early 1950s, she worked to establish a dedicated room for premature infants; the 1970s she worked with faculty from the newly founded Southern Illinois University School of Medicine to recruit a neonatologist to Springfield.

Despite the many technological advances that occurred in the care of neonates during Kate’s career, she always recognized how important it was to get to know her tiny patients so well that she could tell what was wrong with them by the way they cried or how they laid in their cribs.

“The care of the babies didn’t involve the high tech monitoring that is done today, and that meant that as a nurse you had to determine what was going on with the baby,” said Kate. “As I got to know my little patients, I found there was nothing more gratifying than to see a two pound baby go home with his mother.” 

Sister Agnes McDougall, OSF

2012 Distinguished Alumna

Sr. Agnes entered eternal life on April 6, 2015.

Sr. Agnes McDougall was committed to nursing education for nearly 50 years. She is a 1957 graduate of St. John's Hospital School of Nursing. In 1969, Sr. Agnes returned to the School as a director after earning her MSN. As a faculty member, she was involved in a major curriculum revision to move nursing education to a patient-centered approach focused on problem-solving. While diploma programs at that time were closing, St. John's was moving to educate nurses focused on patients. In 1973, she worked with Springfield College in Illinois to offer graduates coursework and an AA degree - preparing them for completion of a BSN. When graduates completed the program after 1976, they had earned a diploma in nursing and 60 general education credit hours.

She served more than 20 years (1963-1984) as a nursing instructor, assistant director, and director. She continued her education and completed post graduate education in surgery at St. John’s Hospital, received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Marillac College, St. Louis, MO, and earned a master’s degree in nursing from Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.

Sister Agnes spent two years in research and then wrote the book “The history of St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing, Springfield, Illinois” on the observance of its 100th anniversary in 1986. Following the completion of the book, Sister Agnes served at Sacred Heart Hospital, Eau Claire, WI, in gerontology. She then went on to teach nursing in East St. Louis and Decatur.

Theresa (Jones) Vann

2011 Distinguished Alumna

Theresa entered eternal life on June 25, 2012. 
In the words of her students and colleagues who nominated her: 

“Theresa has had a position of influence on hundreds of students. Many well trained RN’s both active and retired. Theresa was for many a role model. She was wife; (in the late ‘60’s) active Mother; Professional! She smiled; was relaxed; had a sense of humor; was well read; continued to aspire to greater things in Nursing; procured two master’s degrees; was compassionate as a care giver, teacher and friend. She is delightfully Franciscan – hospitality is so important to her. Joy in her life, family or relationships is most evident. She will represent St. John’s College on a level with Sr. Charitas!”

“Theresa championed the St. John’s College of Nursing. She was strongly committed to nursing educations and maintaining alumni involvement to the program.”

Theresa’s career in nursing education demonstrates excellence in leadership in practice. She retired from St. John’s College of Nursing with the title of Assistant Professor in Parent-Child nursing. She graduated from St. John’s in 1949, MS in Education 1985 and MSN in 1990.

Sister Charitas Prince, OSF

2010 Distinguished Alumna

Sr. Charitas entered eternal life on March 6, 2014.

Sister Charitas is a graduate of St. John’s School of Nursing (Class of 1932) and served on the faculty here from 1932-72 as an instructor of Anatomy, Physiology, and Microbiology. Reflecting back on these years at St. John’s Sister Charitas admitted that she never wanted to be a teacher. “Had I wanted to be a teacher, I would have entered the Notre Dames,” she said with a grin. She completed post graduate studies from St. John’s Hospital in Pediatrics and earned a bachelor's and master's degree in biology from DePaul University.

As a child in Cook Valley, WI Sister Charitas had three goals: to be a Sister, to be a nurse and to be a missionary. In 1972, she had her first experience as a missionary in Taiwan along with other Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. 

Sister Charitas’ primary responsibility was teaching but this time it was conversational English. She taught English for seven years at the Ursuline Language College, at two banks, at industrial factories, as well as private language classes to groups of adults. Most notably, she was the grammarian for the Kaohsiung International Toastmaster’s Club. In addition to her teaching, she assisted the Sisters in their Star of the Sea Clinic, Kaohsiung. She spent 14 years in Taiwan.