Scholarship fund established in memory of beloved nursing faculty

By Frank Couch

Cathy Roche, PhD, RN (PhD 2012), would affectionately introduce herself as “Cathy Roche the Labor Coach” when she met someone new. Her enthusiasm for nursing was evident in everything she did. She inspired students with her passion for advocating for women-centered birthing practices, working as a nurse and nurse educator for more than 40 years, and serving on the UAB School of Nursing faculty from 2012 until her death in February 2022.

Following her passing, her family established The Cathy C. Roche, PhD, RN, Endowed Scholarship in Nursing as a way to honor her life by supporting nursing students and nursing education.

“When Cathy passed away, we gathered as a family and were trying to decide what we could do to honor her memory,” said Roche’s husband, Michael. “We decided a scholarship would be a wonderful way to provide a legacy in her name and be able to assist a future nurse with their studies. So many people were very generous in their donations, and we still are getting donations even over a year after her passing.”

The family, colleagues and current and former students gathered to remember Cathy for her sense of humor, her smile and her love of laughter at an April 2022 memorial service at the School. Michael talked about the creation of the scholarship at the service.

“I truly believe she was put on this earth to do two things—be a nurse and a teacher,” Michael said. “She never forgot what it was like to be a new nursing student and as a result was very empathetic to what each of them was going through and what they had to do.”

Michael and his family were able to meet the scholarship’s first recipients at the School’s 2023 Jean Riley Tomlinson Scholarship Luncheon.

Lauren Brooks is a nurse at a level III Neonatal ICU in Georgia and said the scholarship allowed her to further her education as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner while spending more time with her husband and two young children instead of picking up extra shifts to pay for school.

“Dr. Roche left a great legacy in women’s health and nursing education at UAB and the community,” Brooks said. “I am honored to receive this memorial scholarship and know the contribution to my education will help me touch so many lives in her honor.”

Another scholarship recipient, LaTonjdria Kirksey, is a single mother of three and will be the first of her siblings to earn a college degree.

“I want to advance my nursing career in ways that Dr. Roche demonstrated, showing leadership and passion as a nurse, an educator and researcher for women’s health,” Kirksey said.

Cathy’s dedication to nursing and her family is part of what Michael hopes lives on through this scholarship.

“We are all better for having known her. She is sorely missed but not forgotten, thanks in large part to this endowed scholarship started in her name,” Michael said.

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