Relf Honors Mother and Mentor with Endowed Scholarship

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Michael Relf knows who to thank for his success in life.  That’s why the 1988 nursing graduate created an endowed scholarship in honor of his mother and his SDSU mentor. Michael established the scholarship to acknowledge the influence of his mother, Bonnie Relf, and retired nursing professor, Eleda Brotsky.

Michael Relf knows who to thank for his success in life.  That’s why the 1988 nursing graduate created an endowed scholarship in honor of his mother and his SDSU mentor. 

Michael established the scholarship to acknowledge the influence of his mother, Bonnie Relf, and retired nursing professor, Eleda Brotsky.

“The many successes I’ve had I attribute to them,” said Michael, who serves as associate dean for global and community affairs at Duke University. “People paved the way for me and I hope to be able to do the same for others.”

Gently pushing Michael down the path was his mother. Due largely to his mother’s belief in higher education, Michael was the first person in his family to go to college.

“My mother never had the opportunity to go to college, but she always stressed the importance of higher education,” Michael said. 

His mother had a simple formula for measuring higher education.  “The higher the education, the better,” said Bonnie, who left school after the eighth grade. “From the time he was little, I knew he was going to accomplish a lot -- and he has.”

Michael’s inquisitive nature made an impression on Professor Brotsky. She, in turn, would serve as his mentor.

“Oh, he was a wonderful student,” said Professor Brotsky, and her tone echoes the one used by his mother. “He was very interested in everything.”

Professor Brotsky was Michael’s academic adviser as well as the adviser to the Student Nursing Association, a group that Michael served as president.

The professor and Michael have kept in touch over the years with cards, letters and visits. And now an honor that the professor can’t quite believe.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Professor Brotsky said of Michael offering a scholarship in her honor. “Sometimes you wonder if you’re even touching one of your students.” Then, she adds with a laugh, “Well, now I know I touched one of them.”

Neither woman was surprised that Michael’s career path led to academia.

His mother recalls how young Michael would play “school” during summer vacations.  “I knew he’d be a teacher of some type,” Bonnie said. 

Professor Brotsky said the Michael she first met at SDSU was interested in teaching. 

“With his inquisitive mind,” Professor Brotsky said, “I’m not surprised by how much research he has done.” He earned his masters's from Georgetown University, where he later served as Chair of the Department of Nursing. He earned his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.

Michael’s research has included the psychosocial aspects of HIV and the role of the advanced practice nurse in the care and treatment of persons at risk for or living with HIV. He is an Advanced HIV/AIDS Certified Registered Nurse.

Michael is now an associate dean at Duke University. He has kept tabs on SDSU and he likes what he sees at the College of Nursing. He has watched the college grow in enrollment and influence as it has gained doctoral programs and increased its research.

“I think Dean Farhenwald is an extraordinary leader for the school,” Michael said. 

Michael recalls his undergraduate years and the wealth of information that was available to students. He see students today who are also faced with an explosion of knowledge in medicine, health care and nursing. 

This scholarship is directed toward students with leadership potential and a strong concern for human welfare who values the dignity of the patient.

He believes nursing students today would be well-served by the core principles of his nursing education at SDSU. 

“We were taught how to think,” Michael said. “We were taught how to seek information. That’s really the hallmark of excellence at SDSU.”

"We were taught how to think.  We were taught how to seek information.  That's really the hallmark of excellence at SDSU."

>Michael Relf


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