Donors Honor NMU Lifesaver with Gift to Nursing Program

John & Cathi Drake and Naomi BendaThe quick and professional actions of Northern Michigan University senior nursing student Naomi Benda were recognized Friday (May 4) with a $75,000 gift from Cathi and John Drake to NMU's School of Nursing for the creation of a critical care simulation lab.

Last August, Benda performed lifesaving CPR and emergency first aid on Cathi Drake after she collapsed in a restaurant in Houghton, Mich., while having dinner with her husband and friends. 

During Friday's nursing commencement pinning ceremony, Benda, who hails from Cokato, Minn., was surprised with the announcement of the Drake's gift in her honor and with the presentation of a State of Michigan Certificate of Tribute citation from Gov. Jennifer Granholm, and a State of Michigan Special Tribute from the House of Representatives signed by Upper Peninsula representatives Steve Lahti and Steve Lindberg and Senator Mike Prusi during the announcement of the Drakes' gift in her honor.

Critical Care Simulation LabThe critical care simulation lab is located in NMU's West Science Building and emulates a room in a state-of-the-art intensive care hospital unit. It was officially opened and dedicated as the Benda-Drake Room following the pinning ceremony.

"It was a total surprise," said an emotional Benda, following a tour of the new lab. "I was bawling my eyes out. I wasn't sure when I first heard it announced what a critical care simulation lab would entail but it's a beautiful room, and it will be a great learning environment for future classes here."

The Drakes, who are from Warren, Ohio and are retired owners of a manufacturing business, attended the pinning and room dedication. They will also attend NMU's commencement Saturday (May 5) to see Benda graduate.  They reside in Hancock, Mich. during the summer.

"We really appreciate what Naomi did and what Northern Michigan University did in training her to handle such a situation so well. And we're hoping that this room will help train more future nurses to perform so well.  That's our mission and our hope; this gift isn't about us. It's about the future and the young people NMU is trying to educate. We want to help the university continue to provide the highest level of training in its nursing program," said John Drake. "The room is great and Julie Dobson of the NMU nursing department did a wonderful job of putting it together."

Kerri Schuiling, associate dean of nursing, said there is a severe shortage of nurses with critical care experience.

"A simulation lab enables us to provide an educational experience for our students that helps to meet that need," said Schuiling.