For Beth Von Buchwald, a longtime OKWU professor within both the on-ground campus and the university’s online program, being named The Lighthouse Outreach Center’s Volunteer of the Year came as something of a surprise.
“I mean, they’re making a big stink out of this and I’m only there on Wednesday mornings from eight to twelve,” she laughs, characteristically humble about the achievement.
Still—the award is just one more example of a life dedicated to service and ministry, and a fitting reminder of the legacy that Von Buchwald has left with students during her career at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
“It’s a privilege to be in service there helping, and that’s what I told them. It’s something I don’t hold lightly.”
Impacting Beyond the Classroom
Von Buchwald got her start in nursing in Philadelphia in a Med-Surg hospital unit, later going on to gain experience in home health and hospice nursing. In 1993, she came to OKWU to teach in what was then the associate nursing program, and she’s been teaching in some capacity ever since, helping during the transition to awarding full-fledged BSN degrees within the School of Nursing.
Her time within the program allowed her to put her stamp on a number of classes in the curriculum—intercultural nursing, ethics in nursing, and nursing informatics among them—but the best part of the experience has always been the ability to make a dynamic impact with students.
“You develop relationships with [them],” she says. “I’m in touch with many of my past students, and that’s been fun, just seeing what they’ve done with their BSN.”
These personal relationships allow Von Buchwald to engage with students as they go through life, especially when they go through challenges and struggles. “You often find yourself walking with students through very difficult times in their lives,” she says.
This is especially true recently, with the burnout occurring in nurses during the aftermath of COVID-19 a common topic in the classroom and in society at large. It can be challenging, Von Buchwald says, but she appreciates the chance to make an impact on such a vital and worthwhile workforce. “Any nurse who’s doing school, doing family, doing full time work… I admire the daylights out of them,” she said.
When addressing these challenges, Von Buchwald cites the profound importance of OKWU’s commitment to biblical integration in the curriculum. After teaching at secular universities earlier in her career, she’s extra thankful to be able to bring her Christian faith into the conversation. “When it comes to the freedom to bring in the spiritual aspect, that’s part of our whole package for the nursing program,” she says.
“When it comes to the freedom to bring in the spiritual aspect, that’s part of our whole package for the nursing program.”
Von Buchwald has been attending First Wesleyan Church in Bartlesville for almost twenty years, and it’s there that she was first connected with Errol Hada, the executive director of The Lighthouse Outreach Center—and a former OKWU alumni award winner. Eager to serve, she asked him what the mission needed. The answer seemed almost innocuous—a volunteer receptionist for Wednesday morning. She agreed quickly.
“The typical day is answering telephones and greeting people and being congenial at the front desk,” she says, although she’s also quick to point out that a “typical” day is a rare thing. “You have the residents that come and have different needs. Sometimes they just like to chat, so you get to interact with everybody.”
Much like her time in the classroom, these personal relationships are the best part of the job. Another highlight is the weeknight freedom meet. “They’re like deliverance meetings, and they’re in the evening,” she says. “We had a resident go through one of them and then the next morning when I came in, she came flying over to me threw her arms around me, just so thankful.”
When they presented Von Buchwald with the Volunteer of the Year award, she was predictably humble. “It’s a privilege to be in service there helping, and that’s what I told them. It’s something I don’t hold lightly,” she says.
She also pointed to her upbringing; her father was a church elder who worked in homeless ministry, and her mother led a women’s Bible study—both things Von Buchwald is doing now. It’s a powerful legacy and one that OKWU has been proud to play a small part in.
“There must be spiritual DNA,” Von Buchwald says.
For those interested, there are multiple ways to give time or resources to The Lighthouse Outreach Center. Click here for more information.