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College of Nursing

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2016 Distinguished Alumni Award: Dr. Martha Keehner Engelke, BSN '71

Dr. Martha Keehner Engelke (Marti) is currently a professor at East Carolina University College of Nursing where for 12 years she served as the Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship. Marti received her BSN from Michigan State University in 1971 and an MPH in public health nursing and health education from the University of Michigan in 1976. In 1991, she graduated from North Carolina State University with a PhD in sociology and a minor in health occupation education.  She is extremely accomplished in both nursing research and practice.  

Although she has lived in North Carolina for over 30 years, Marti is and will always be a Spartan nurse. She is quick to explain that MSU feels like home – that of all the degrees she has received, she still feels most connected to her baccalaureate education.  A BSN degree, says Marti, “is the heart of nursing education; you are learning the profession and developing as an adult.” MSU is where Marti grew.  It shaped her values, widened her views, and shaped her into the person she is today.     

After graduation from the College of Nursing in 1971, Marti was caught up in life.  She married and moved to North Carolina, started a family, and, like many graduates, she lost touch with Michigan State.  It wasn’t until years later, after inviting an MSU faculty member to do a presentation that she began to reconnect with MSU and the College of Nursing.  Over the years, she has become involved as a member of the Alumni Board and recently endowed a scholarship.   


In Marti’s own words, becoming involved with the College of Nursing as a member of the Alumni Board has helped her reconnect with the mission of MSU.  She has enjoyed seeing how the University has grown and is very proud of the way the College has advanced and the quality of the graduates it produces. The College of Nursing values excellence while remaining inclusive and approachable in both nursing practice and research. She is glad to have the opportunity to serve and be a part of all the great things happening here.   

Working in higher education, Marti is very aware of how fragile finances are in students’ lives, and it is important to Marti and her family to give back. Her parents valued education and saw it as a way to be more mobile; they believed that it was important for Marti and her siblings to be well educated and find a career that was fulfilling. To honor their memory and the sacrifices they made, Marti and her brothers established the William and Angeline Keehner Scholarship with hope that this scholarship will help make a student’s life easier. In both her career and philanthropy, Marti exemplifies what it means to “pay it forward.” In doing so, she continues to exemplify the very best that the Michigan State University College of Nursing has to offer.