'Dear Lord:' Two generations of Stritch graduates celebrate a triumph over adversity

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 2:25:00 PM


Twenty years ago, Jane Lord, a 1988 associate degree in nursing graduate, could not have imagined how painful her life’s journey would be.

Despite nearly being killed in a devastating car crash and undergoing 24 surgeries to repair the damage in the years since, Lord was able to see her own daughter, Kelly Dries, '03, '14, dean of the Ruth S. Coleman College of Nursing, follow in her nursing footsteps May 18, at Stritch’s commencement ceremony.

After Lord graduated from Stritch, she began working in hospice nursing. In 1994, Lord was driving to a hospice patient’s house in Beaver Dam when an 18-wheel semitrailer truck sped through a stop sign at more than 65 miles per hour and broadsided her car.

Lord’s vehicle was crushed, and she suffered devastating physical injuries, including structural damage, torn ligaments, and multiple internal injuries. Her soul and sense of purpose, however, only grew stronger.

“At that moment, my nursing career as I knew it ended, but my spirituality soared,” Lord said.

And although Lord’s nursing career was ended that day, Stritch’s May commencement is an opportunity for Lord to celebrate the continuation of the nursing career of her own daughter, Kelly Dries, who received a Ph.D. degree in leadership for the advancement of learning and service in higher education.

Dries was appointed the dean of the Ruth S. Coleman College of Nursing in August 2012. Under her leadership, the College has prepared to launch the state's first bachelor's degree program in respiratory therapy; initiated articulation agreements with the Wisconsin Technical College System; and integrated a mental health strand into the curriculum. But Dries' connection to Stritch began earlier than her appointment as dean. She remembers visiting the main campus as a young girl when her mother studied here.

With the earning of her Ph.D., Dries is able to honor her mother, who was in attendance as Dries walked across the stage. And as the dean of the very college where her mother began her journey in nursing, Dries is able to help her mother come full circle. 

"It was an honor to have my mother present at my graduation," said Dries. "She has been my inspiration and biggest cheerleader."

Dries credits her mother for always providing guidance, support, and demonstrating determination. Even while bedridden during her recovery or during a long and painful rehabilitation process, Lord never felt sorry for herself or gave up. She continues to find new ways to serve and is active with Stephen Ministries, an organization that trains laypeople to counsel and support members of their congregations and communities; Christian Life Community, and St. Vincent DePaul. In May 2011, Lord became a covenanted School Sisters of Notre Dame associate. 

“Always remember, God is calling each one of us on a unique journey,” Lord said. “We all have a specific mission in life. I may never again be able to be a nurse and lift people physically. But now I can lift them spiritually.”

Dries, as a second generation Stritch graduate, is proud of her mother’s recovery, perseverance, and commitment to service. 

“No matter what capacity, people can refocus their energies and be able to serve to meet the needs of others. It may just look a little different,” she said.