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Celebrating a Legacy of Care and Compassion

For the Anderson family, nursing is in the DNA.

The family's nursing legacy began with Marilynn Wolf Anderson's care and compassion for others. Marilynn had no way of knowing she would pave the way for her daughter, granddaughter, and so many other aspiring nurses— including through the power of philanthropy. 

Marilynn Wolf Anderson graduated from the former Barnes School of Nursing in 1961 and became a well-respected charge nurse on the surgical floor at the former Barnes Hospital in the 1960s.Nurse Marilynn Wolf

“Marilynn was the picture of efficiency and authority, but at the same time she was compassionate, caring, and always mindful of the needs of others,” says Nicholas Kouchoukos, MD, a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon who worked with Marilynn. “She was one of the finest nurses I have ever known.”

She was also appreciated for her teaching and mentoring. “As a mentor, Marilynn worked alongside you, guiding and teaching the skills to become a great nurse,” says Penny Stites, a former colleague of Marilynn and a 1966 graduate of Barnes School of Nursing. “Her teaching encouraged me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing to eventually become a head nurse.”

As part of the hospital’s surgical team, Marilynn met and married a pioneering surgeon, Charles Anderson, MD. Dr. Anderson became general surgeon-in-chief and helped establish the kidney transplantation program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He also was pivotal in developing vascular surgery as a specialty at the hospital.

Marilynn stepped down from nursing to raise their three daughters, but she continued her dedication to health care and volunteered at St. Louis Children’s Hospital for many years.

Mom Was Right”

The nursing genes ran strong in Marilynn’s youngest daughter, Beth Stiska—but Beth was resistant to the idea of nursing as a teenager making career decisions.

Beth blames teenage rebellion. “In high school, I did a lot of volunteer work at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. My mom suggested I look at nursing school because she said I would be an asset to the medical profession and she thought I would find it rewarding. But I didn’t want to listen to my parents at that stage of my life.”

In 1995, Beth’s father, Dr. Anderson, had a stroke that ended his surgical career. The experience of seeing her father in the ICU after his stroke left a lasting impression and gave her another perspective on nursing.

“My dad always had a great appreciation for nurses, especially because of my mom, but after being a patient, he said he had even greater admiration for them,” Beth says. “I took that to heart.”

But she continued to resist what she knew deep down was her true calling.

In her college years, Beth attended culinary school in Denver. Then, everything changed in 2001 when Marilynn was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare, aggressive cancer of the bile duct.

Beth immediately came home to be her mom’s caregiver, a role she filled for the next year and a half. The nursing seed sprouted but still had not fully emerged.

After her mother passed away in 2003, Beth moved to San Diego, got married, and worked at an insurance brokerage firm. Yet she could no longer ignore her mother’s encouraging voice and her desire to make a difference. “I knew I wasn’t meant to be in a cubicle, and I felt nursing was a better fit,” Beth says. “I finally realized my mom was right all along.” 

Today, Beth is an advanced clinical and relief charge nurse on a stroke/neurological floor in a San Diego hospital.

“I wanted to find something that gave me meaning and would give back to the world,” she says. “And I want to take care of people like I cared for my mom when she was sick.”

Granddaughter Connects on a Purposeful Path

Beth’s niece—and Marilynn’s granddaughter—Mia Redington is now a nursing student in the accelerated program at Barnes-Jewish College Goldfarb School of Nursing. She will graduate in August—more than 60 years after her grandmother, Marilynn aka “Nana,” followed the same path at the former Barnes School of Nursing.

Mia Anderson“Mia is very smart, resourceful, and a hard worker—those things will get her far,” Beth says. “In nursing, there’s so much to know, and Mia is always wanting to read more and learn more. She will be an amazing leader and great nurse. Plus, she’s one of the most caring people I know.”

Beth and Mia have always had a close bond. With nursing as their common career, they are even closer.

Like Beth, Mia took an indirect path to nursing. While she was always drawn to health care because of her family ties, she also was interested in education. “My family values education and learning,” Mia says. “I also wanted a job where I could impact lives, so I decided to be a teacher.”

Mia graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in elementary education but realized teaching wasn’t the right fit for her long term.

“I was feeling pulled toward nursing,” Mia says. “The only school I even looked at was Goldfarb. I had heard so much about it from my mom (Kristin Redington, who is a philanthropy officer at The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital), plus my Nana went to school there, and it is connected to Barnes-Jewish Hospital, which is where I wanted to work.”

Mia is proud of her grandparents’ contributions and history at the hospital where she is completing her clinical observations. She has already observed a vascular surgery in awe. The surgeon even knew Mia’s “Papa,” Dr. Anderson, who passed away in 2016.

“To walk in the same halls where both my grandparents walked makes me feel more connected to them,” Mia says. “It’s empowering. I’m proud of this family legacy and am excited to start my career in nursing in the same place.”

Like her grandparents, Mia plans to work at Barnes-Jewish Hospital after graduation. And like her grandmother who mentored other nurses, Mia hopes to eventually use her education background to become a clinical instructor or preceptor for other nurses. In addition, she is interested in cardiothoracic and vascular surgery or transplant surgery—like her grandfather.

The Legacy Continues

A nursing scholarship in Marilynn’s memory was established at The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital for nursing students at Barnes-Jewish College Goldfarb School of Nursing. Since its establishment, the fund has provided 30 scholarships, helping to meet the growing demand for nurses. The Anderson family’s legacy continues by creating pathways to vibrant nursing careers for others.

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Written by Joyce Romine

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