“Nurses meet people at very emotionally and physically vulnerable points in their lives,” says Sheryl Rasmussen [Ruhlman] (’86). “I never would have imagined the close and quick connection that often comes with this profession. We have the privilege of caring for everyone, without judgment—in their best times and their worst times—in their living and their dying.”  

This year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, Sheryl Rasmussen, has worked in the field of nursing for over 30 years, and from almost every angle: as a registered nurse at University of Washington Medical Center, as a childbirth educator, lactation educator, researcher, and professor of nursing at three different universities. In her career she has served countless patients and helped to train thousands of aspiring nurses.  

After entering the nursing profession, Rasmussen recalls that her world expanded quickly. “Coming from Everson, Washington, population 400, then to a small university like Corban, when I began working, I saw the world,” she says. “Every day, the world came through those double doors—the joy of new life, the challenges of social and health complications, the full scope of human experience and difficulty.”   

As her world broadened rapidly, she was able to meet it head on with the grace and truth she had cultivated in her years at Corban. “In nursing, you are serving everyone, not just the people you agree with or who look like you or think like you. You are serving all comers,” she says. “That’s what nurses do, without judgment. It’s been an honor to witness all my patients’ distinct stories and journeys.”  

Throughout her career, primarily working with childbearing families, Rasmussen helped to care for a diverse population of patients. “We took care of everyone,” she says, “new immigrants, marginalized populations, refugees.” In doing so, Rasmussen felt her profession colliding with the core of the gospel. “What could be more incredible than helping in the start of new life?” she says. “I had the privilege of helping new families start well, build confidence, and be the best family they could be to start a new human off as optimally as possible.”  

Eventually, Rasmussen made the transition to nursing education and now teaches the next generation of nurses in topics such as healthcare disparities among population groups, disease prevention, and growth and development. She brings with her the same attitude and passion she employed helping families start their new journeys. “It’s an honor for me to serve my students in the same way that I know they will one day serve their clients,” she says.  

Rasmussen has also used her years of experience to give back to the university that first equipped her to serve. With the launch of Corban’s new nursing program, Rasmussen has been instrumental in the early shaping of its trajectory, leveraging her years of experience and passion for nursing education into a new offering she is certain will impact the community and the world. “I’m looking forward to seeing Corban serve the Willamette Valley and to seeing students bring their whole selves to nursing, ready to make an impact for Jesus Christ at home and around the world,” she says. “Over a career of nursing, they will touch so many people with the love and hands of the Lord, wherever they choose to work and serve.” 

In her role as an advisory board member for the program, Rasmussen has been a staunch advocate for nursing, seeing it as a fulfillment of Corban’s unique dual purpose not only to educate students to excel in their careers, but also to equip them for faithful service. “It’s such a good addition for Corban to have another program where students can come out of college with a livable wage job, with direct entry, like ‘get a job tomorrow after you graduate today,’” she says. “It will challenge and broaden and stretch students like it has me, and yet your faith can remain fully intact. There is a desperate need for nurses everywhere you turn. It’s a fast track to employment and service to our Lord.” 

As she looks back on years of hard work, sacrifice, and service, Sheryl Rasmussen has seen almost every angle the world of nursing has to offer, working part time, full time, per diem, and more than full time—holding life and death in her hands, grace and truth—sharing in moments of profound joy and deepest sorrow, and equipping the next generation to do the same. The thought of being recognized as Alumni of the Year never crossed her mind. “I took what I call ‘the mommy track’ in a portion of my career,” she says. “And I don’t mean that disparagingly. I loved every minute of it. I continued to work while being a mother, but there was a large portion of time where my career wasn’t my main focus.” 

Rasmussen isn’t the first in her family to receive this award. Her husband, Eric, was named Corban University’s Distinguished Alumni of the Year in 2009. “I’ve caught up with him,” she laughs. “At my age, to feel like my career has meant something is very special. It’s an honor and a privilege to have helping new families and new nurses be such a major part of my journey. What could be better?”