Call this nurse ‘Dr. Nicholson'
By By LYDIA GRIMES – Features writer
Most people devote themselves to only one major career, but Marilyn Redmon Nicholson is not most people. She is one of a kind and one talk with her points that out. Nicholson may not be one of a kind, but she comes close. This past December she earned her doctorate degree from the University of West Florida.
That may not seem like a very unusual event, but when one considers that she earned her first degree 30 years ago, her story gets a little bit more interesting.
Nicholson was born in Brewton to Willie Bell and Jessie Redmon in 1954.
She grew up on St. Joseph Avenue, one of five children born to the Redmons. She attended Booker T. Washington Jr. High School, which, for the younger generation would be Brewton Middle School today. When she reached the ninth grade she attended T.R. Miller High School and was an above-average student. She wanted to attend college and began at Jefferson Davis Community College on a work-study program.
"I worked with the custodians for a while and washed windows right here in the same building where I now work," she said. "Then the English teacher, Suzanne Carden, came and asked me if I could type and hired me as her secretary. That's the way I paid my way through school."
Nicholson graduated from JDCC in 1975 with an associate's degree in nursing.
"I wanted to be a doctor," Nicholson said, "I came from meager beginnings. My family was very poor when I was young. I thought my dream of becoming a doctor couldn't become a reality so I decided to become a nurse instead. But I enjoyed the time that I spent nursing."
After she earned her degree, she went to work as a registered nurse at West Gate Village as a staff nurse for the next seven years. She was promoted to assistant director of nursing and held that job for two years. During that time she commuted to the University of South Alabama while taking care of a family and working a full-time job with lots of responsibilities. In 1984, Nicholson earned the bachelor of science degree from the University of South Alabama and was promoted to director of nursing. She held that job until 1999. As Director of Nursing, Nicholson was known for being sure the patients received quality care and for empowering the staff.
She says she saw herself as a part of a great team.
During these years, she decided that she wanted to go back to school.
In 1997, while she was working at her job as Director of Nursing at West Gate Village, she enrolled at Troy University, Florida Region. During the 13 years since earning the BSN, "changes in education presented a struggle that I had to overcome."
"My biggest challenge was the computer class," she said. She persisted and
graduated in 1999 with a master's degree in counseling and psychology.
She went from her nursing career to a job as a teacher in psychology at Reid State Technical College for the next two years and worked part time at Jefferson Davis Community College.
"I thought nursing was a lifetime commitment," she said. "But I felt led in another direction, almost as if a chapter had closed in my life."
In 2001, Nicholson joined the staff at JDCC full time and enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of West Florida. She earned her doctorate degree in education. During these years she commuted to Pensacola for her classes and continued to work at the
college. The title of her dissertation was "The Struggle for Educational Attainment: A Case Study of the First African-American Female Neurosurgeon," which is about the life of Dr. Alexa Canady and the struggles she encountered related to race, class and gender and how she overcame them. When she became a neurosurgeon, Dr. Canady was only one of seven females in this position in the country.
Nicholson continues to work full time at Jefferson Davis Community College as a learning skills specialist and, with doctorate in hand, hopes for an even brighter future.
One can tell just how much she loves her work when she speaks of the students who come into her office. She counsels students of all age groups, helping them with their personal, career, financial, and academic concerns as they strive to reach their academic goals. She conducts workshops designed to help students "find the power that is within them," she said.
"It is my first goal to help a student find one success which helps them have more successes," she said. "I want to empower students to believe in themselves. Excellence is still my motto, and applies to the students I see."
Nicholson children have followed her footsteps in the pursuit of higher education. She is divorced and has three children and four grandchildren.
Her son, Marcus, who was born in 1973, has a bachelor's degree in computer-aided drafting and electronics from the University of West Alabama. He is currently employed with Kellogg-Browning Root and lives in Mobile.
His twin, Marcia, has a master's degree in divinity from Liberty University. She is currently completing requirements for a doctorate in ministry. She works for Calvary International, an international mission organization in Jacksonville, Fla.
Monica is Nicholson's youngest. She lives in Brewton and earned her associate's degree in business administration from Jefferson Davis Community College. She works across from her mother's JDCC office in The Learning Lab.
"I am very proud of my children," Nicholson said. "When Monica received her degree last year, I was allowed to give her the diploma."
She has been so busy over the years with her work and her studies that she has had little time to spend on herself, but says she plans to change that. You cannot talk to her very long before you become aware that she is a Christian.
"I believe in God and I am certainly led by Him," she said. “I have a strong faith and it was my faith that saw me through to receive the doctoral degree."
As far as her career, "I will continue to be led by God," she said.
"I plan on spending 60 percent of my time on me," she added. "My doctor has told me that I spent all of my life taking care of others and it's now my time."
Nicholson says she loves to read and will probably devote some time to doing that now that she has the time.
"Reading has made a difference in the outcome of my life," she said. "I want to spend some time reading the things I want to. I also want to do some writing. There may be a book in my future and I want to write some articles. I'll do some volunteer work and hope to make a difference in the lives of the people in the community, but I have to be careful and not fill my plate too full. The theme of my life has been to make a difference.
"Rearing my children has been my greatest accomplishment," she added. "They gave me a gold star for graduation in December, that was engraved with 'Mother, you will always be our shining star.' It was quite moving. And incidentally, two weeks later, I received an email from a former nursing assistant who I encouraged to go back to school, who went from becoming an LPN to her master's degree in business, that said, 'You've been one shining star in my life that has never dimmed, faded, or disappeared. You are a blessing and such a mentor in my life.'”
Across two careers Marilyn Nicholson has been empowering people and touching lives. According to Dr. Marilyn Redmon Nicholson, "It's all about lives."