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Nurse Surprised by Grandmother During Graduation Ceremony ‘Pinning’

St. Luke's School of Nursing - Graduation © 2023 Bob Hahn, Olympus OMD EM1 Mark III, M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Lens

Rachael Martin’s graduation from St. Luke’s School of Nursing (SON) took a surprising and heartwarming turn when the 23-year-old’s grandmother–a 1958 SON graduate–rose to her feet to join in the traditional “pinning” ceremony.

Est. Read Time: 3 mins

Rachael Martin’s graduation from St. Luke’s School of Nursing (SON) took a surprising and heartwarming turn when the 23-year-old’s grandmother–a 1958 SON graduate–rose to her feet to join in the traditional “pinning” ceremony.

Pinning is the symbolic ceremony of welcoming graduating nurses to the caring profession, which has been deemed the most trusted in the world. St. Luke’s SON held graduation on the evening of Dec. 14.

Unknown to Rachael, a 2018 Palisades High School graduate who lives in Riegelsville, her mother, Becky Martin, and grandmother, Peggy Hoffman, were planning to surprise her when she received her School of Nursing pin.

Peggy Hoffman worked and taught nursing students at St. Luke’s Bethlehem hospital and at Northampton Community College for several years before starting her family.

Rachael considers her grandmother her role model.

“She’s has always been very important to me and influenced me to become a nurse,” said Rachael, who has worked as a patient care assistant in the emergency department at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus and plans to start in the nurse internship program there. “I had mentioned to my family how neat it would be if my grandmother could pin me, considering she is an alumna of the School of Nursing,” she recalled, “but I didn’t think further into the idea.”

This wish set into motion a scheme hatched by her mother and grandmother.

As the pinning got underway at Nitschmann Middle School in Bethlehem, each of the 52 graduating nurses climbed up the steps to the center of the stage to be pinned by Alyssa Villegas, MSN, one of their instructors. All eyes were on each student on the most important day of their educational journey.

When it was Rachael’s turn to have her St. Luke’s School of Nursing pin attached to the collar of her uniform, Villegas surprised her.

“She told me, ‘You’re going to give this pin to the woman standing down there,’” as she pointed at Rachael’s grandmother, who was standing at the bottom of the stage. So focused on the ceremony, Rachael hadn’t seen her family at the front of the auditorium.

There, at the foot of the stage, were her mother, grandmother and Rachael’s aunt, Janine Harris, a nurse anesthetist who came to the ceremony from her home in Colorado, waiting for her with big smiles.

St. Luke's School of Nursing - Graduation © 2023 Bob Hahn, Olympus OMD EM1 Mark III, M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Lens

Rachael Martin (right) is pinned by her grandmother, Peggy Hoffman (left), a 1958 St. Luke’s School of Nursing graduate, with help from Rachael’s aunt, Janine Harris, who is also a nurse. (Photo credit: St. Luke’s School of Nursing Graduation © 2023 Bob Hahn)

“It was such as surprise!” she recalled.

When Rachael realized what was about to take place, she said she “was hysterical!”

Hoffman pinned her granddaughter, gave her a hug and kiss, and the audience erupted in applause.

“I cried,” said Rachael. “My grandmother cried, and I think the entire audience cried!”

The surprise pinning was the emotional high point for Rachael and her family–and quite possibly for everyone there. In that memorable moment, the nursing history in their family was extended to another generation who got her start at St. Luke’s School of Nursing, the longest continuously operating nursing school in the country.

Note: This community health news is brought to you in partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network.

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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at josh@sauconsource.com.

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