Dr. Tena Payne was momentarily left speechless after learning on a recent Saturday afternoon that friends and colleagues at West Kentucky Community and Technical College had established a scholarship in her honor.
"I'm a little lost for words," Payne told the audience in the Luther F. Carson on May 6. "All I can say is, 'Wow.'"
President Anton R. Reece said the scholarship recognizes Payne's 32 years of service to the college and will benefit nursing students. Payne, who is from Paducah and serves as vice president of academic affairs, retires June 30.
While presenting the award at the end of the college's spring nurse pinning ceremony, Shari Gholson, dean of nursing, said Payne's legacy lies with each person she has touched over the years.
"You may have served the college for 31 years," Gholson said, "but your influence on the profession of nursing and community college education will continue on, well beyond years that we can count."
Before earning her doctorate degree in higher education from the University of Kentucky in 2000, Payne began her nursing career in 1971 as a full-time nurse aide and worked in various health care positions as she earned a bachelor's degree in nursing from Murray State University in 1976 and a master's degree in nursing from the University of Evansville in 1985.
In August of 1985, Payne accepted her first position as a nurse educator at the college, then known as Paducah Community College. She worked in the nursing division as a faculty member until 1992, when she became the dean of nursing at the college. Payne has served as the college's vice president of academic affairs since 2006.
Speaking during WKCTC's pinning ceremony on May 6, Payne encouraged more than 60 new nurses to make the most of their career and to never stop learning. The pinning ceremony is a symbolic welcoming of recently graduated nurses into the profession.
"I'm very proud of graduates of our nursing programs," she said. "I see them everywhere in western Kentucky. They provide nursing care in many settings. They are teachers in our program; they are school nurses; they are nurse practitioners, mid-wives, researchers, administrators and entrepreneurs. I've been a nurse for 41 years, and I know that the skills that we learn such as problem solving, communication, organization, collaboration, assertiveness, determination, compassion and understanding, go far in any field."
To learn more about options for giving to WKCTC and the Dr. Tena Payne Scholarship, contact Lee Emmons at firstname.lastname@example.org or 270-534-3084.