The Campaign for Nursing

Susan O'Brien '57, '65

Established the Michael P. O’Brien Memorial Scholarship for nursing students

Why I give: “I would have appreciated something like that when I was going to school.”

Susan O'Brien

Susan O’Brien knows what it is like to struggle financially while trying to go to school. She grew up during the Great Depression, yet found a way to become a nurse.

“Things were difficult back then, and you didn’t have many choices if you did not go to school. So I saved my money and got into a nursing school,” O’Brien says.

Those tough times helped shape her decision to set up the Michael P. O’Brien Memorial Scholarship—named for her late son—to provide financial help to Sacramento State nursing students.

“I wanted to help someone who is really anxious to get an education but can’t afford it,” O’Brien says. “I would have appreciated something like that when I was going to school. It would have been a big help to me.”

O’Brien said she’d like to see students interested in gerontology apply for the scholarship because of the “unique skills and personality” required for nurses who work with older patients. “I’ve felt that way ever since I became a senior,” she says, laughing.

O’Brien received her RN degree in 1937 while living in Detroit. During World War II, she moved to Sacramento, and in 1957 became part of University history when she and eight other students became the first graduates of Sacramento State’s nursing education program. O’Brien also earned a master’s degree in health education from Sac State in 1965.

O’Brien says she is impressed with today’s nursing students and is amazed at the technology which includes computers and simulated patients.

“We learned to give hypodermics by practicing on an orange, then we graduated to doing it on each other, and you didn’t dare do it wrong,” she says. “By the time you gave it to your classmates, you pretty much knew what you were doing.”