Facebook pixel Hallemann Pinned Hopes for Nursing Career on STLCC

Hallemann Pinned Hopes for Nursing Career on STLCC

Wednesday, March 10, 2021


Suzanne HallemannA poor grade in a chemistry class nearly derailed a lifelong dream for Suzanne Hallemann. 

But thanks to a new program offered by a fledgling institution in 1963, Hallemann overcame that rocky start and became one of the first graduates of the nursing program offered by Meramec Community College as it was known in 1965. 

“We actually began classes at night at Roosevelt High School until the Quonset huts were ready at Meramec in January 1964,” Hallemann said. “After a rocky start to my nursing education, I was proud to graduate on the dean’s honor roll. With much hard work, we all graduated on time and passed state boards.” 

The south St. Louis City native, the middle of three children, graduated from St. Elizabeth’s Academy in 1962. Hallemann traces her desire to become a nurse to early elementary school. 

“As long as I can remember, maybe age 6 or 7, I wanted to be a nurse. In high school, I set my sights on St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing,” Hallemann recalled. She was accepted and moved into the dorm in September 1962. 

Despite thoroughly enjoying her freshman year there, Hallemann said the nuns requested that she leave after earning a “D” in chemistry. Still wanting to become a nurse more than anything else, Hallemann interviewed for a position in the new nursing program offered at St. Louis Community College’s Meramec campus. The Junior College of St. Louis-St. Louis County was established in April 1962. 

“This was a brand-new program, with many expecting it to fail,” Hallemann said. “Our administrators were determined that we would succeed and pass state boards along with 3- and 4-year nurses. (Instructors) mentored us to the point where we were not allowed to fail.” 

Suzanne Hallemann as student nurseTransitioning from classes at Roosevelt to Meramec was not without challenges. 

“’Class in the Grass’ was a favorite of ours. The Quonset huts got very hot in the summer, and sometimes the teachers would take us outside to sit under the trees,” Hallemann said. “I spent many hours working in the microbiology lab preparing Petri dishes, etc. The program was so intense, and I was so busy working (as a nurse’s aide at St. Louis Children’s Hospital) that I don’t have many memories of hanging out with friends.” 

At that time, the Meramec nursing students did not receive the practical time in a hospital setting that 3-year nurses experienced. Hallemann credits outstanding instruction, plus her work as an [CKS2] aide at Children’s Hospital, allowed her to seamlessly transition from aide to graduate nurse to RN. She proudly accepted her nursing pin in May 1965.  

After three years at Children’s Hospital, Hallemann paused her career to raise a family before finding her true vocation. She became an Air Force wife, following her pilot husband across the country. When the youngest of their four children started kindergarten in 1980, Hallemann took a refresher course in Oklahoma City and went back to pediatric nursing, working nights at St. Anthony’s Children’s (Hospital) in Oklahoma City. In 1984, the family transferred to Ramstein, Germany. 

“While there, a neighbor convinced me to sign up to be a substitute school nurse. I had no idea what they did, but learned very quickly,” she said. “I decided I had found my vocation.” 

Upon returning to the United States in 1989, Hallemann applied to the Mehlville School District and worked four years as a school nurse. She then became director of nursing for the next 12 years until retiring in 2006. 

“At the time I entered school nursing, it had previously been a job filled by volunteer moms and was considered to be ‘band-aid nursing,’ but as education changed and Special School District began sending students to local schools, the job changed tremendously,” Hallemann said. “We now cared for students who would have been hospitalized or cared for at home. By the time I retired, we were caring for children with vents, brittle diabetes, and the all-unforgiving peanut allergy. Care plans became very important and proved the necessity of having a nurse in every school building. When I started as director, we had seven nurses for 17 buildings. When I retired, we had grown the program to 17 nurses. That is what I am most proud of.” 

Meramec nursing pinHallemann also completed a bachelor’s degree in health care administration in 1995 from Concordia University prior to becoming the Mehlville district’s director of nursing. 

STLCC’s nursing program has greatly expanded over the years. The new Center for Nursing and Health Careers opened in 2019 at the Forest Park campus, and the first cohort of nursing students began classes at Wildwood in fall 2020. Hallemann recently decided to give the College a prized possession to commemorate the roots of its nursing program. 

“I would like to donate my nursing pin back to Meramec to make sure that they have a pin from the early years, especially as I understand that this pin design was only used for a few years,” she said. “The Meramec two-year nursing program served me well throughout my nursing life. I always felt well-prepared for any nursing position I accepted.” 

Find out more about STLCC’s nursing program. 

Back to top