Articles, Blog

Through flu, sports injuries, homesickness and more

November 19, 2019

My name is Mary Stevenson Shook and I was
the first nurse at Appalachian State Teacher’s College. Appalachian had never had a budget set up
for medicine of any kind. Walked into the basement with the heating
pipes and the water pipes. I had two rooms, you walked into two rooms
connected by a half bath. No closets, no nothing and that was all. I didn’t have anything. So I went up to the drug store and bought
me a thermometer and some aspirin and some cough syrup, and that’s what I started with. An administrator kept telling me that I would
have a place on the campus sometime, he promised me that. I worked anywhere from that hall that I started
off in, to what was once the nursing home and then I went into the basement of a dormitory
and worked in there, and finally ended up in the building that we’re in now. Making decisions of what to do with sick students
was my main concern. I remember dealing with the polio situation. It was no fun. It wasn’t as bad as it was in a lot of places. They tried to prevent spreading it by keeping
it all in one place, but that was before we had vaccine. They converted a hotel I think in Hickory
for this area. We would take turns about sending nurses from
hospitals and health departments. Take days off and go work for polio. Same way with flu shots. We had four thousand students and we had three
fourths of the students in bed at the same time… and sick. One nurse volunteered to stay in the office,
in my office, and she took the boy’s dorms and I took the girl’s dorms. We would start at seven o’clock in the morning
and work all day, taking temperatures and what not. We took care of them the best way we could. Home sicknesses is a disease and certainly
for the first semester. The boys were just coming back from service
at that time and we had a lot of students within a fifty mile radius that was homesick. I took many of them home with me overnight. Just sort of be mama to them until they got
ready to go bed, make them comfortable, gave them a good night’s sleep, wake them up,
give them breakfast and take them back to school school. When I first came they had a trainer for the
football team, but on Monday morning I had football clinic. Dressings, ultrasounds and such as the like
to do, until we finally ended up with a full-time physician. He took over the football field, and that
was in 1965. We got along, I don’t know how, but we did. When I had time, trying to do something about
a student health service that was more important than anything else because at that time the
larger schools in the state had student health services that were financed and everything. And we were just building. And I learned from going to meetings with
other schools like Wake Forest, Duke, Clemson. Every time I’d go to a meeting, I’d bring
an idea back and try to do something about it on the campus. That was the beginning of our student health
service, that was the way it was set up. When we went into the student health building,
not a single building, but one floor of a building in 1982…and I retired in ‘83. When I had learned that they named the infirmary
after me, I didn’t know they had dedicated it. I was just…shocked, but thrilled. I couldn’t help but think about the hours
that had gone into getting it to where it was because there was many hours in it. I had worked as far as I could, not being
a doctor, to bring the standard to student health up to par. It was good. It really was, to walk into it the first time. To have an office of my own, never had an
office of my own and wasn’t connected to somebody else…and I was proud. For one whose sympathy, understanding and
loving counsel has endeared her to all who knew her and has made her such a vital part
of life on our campus. And for one whose friendship has meant so
much to all of us. We, the staff of the 1955 Rhododendron, do
dedicate the volume to one whom we respect so highly and love so dearly, Mrs. Shook.


  • Reply Teena Lurlene September 16, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    This is an amazing woman….and this is what one might call a career legacy. Special thanks to the team that made this possible and the years of service and dedication by "Nurse Shook". Love you Nurse!!

  • Reply greanteawoman March 29, 2017 at 12:16 am

    I so loved Nurse Shook. She was a consummate professional. She had a great sense of humor and always made me feel safe and secure when I visited the infirmary. She passed away on Saturday at age 98. What a legacy she leaves as well as generations of ASU students who loved and admired her.

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