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Paving the Way for Future Nurses

With a gift to Spread Your Wings: The Campaign for Endicott College, Trustee Ayune Michel ’72 is helping pave the way for fellow nursing students.
By: Megan Tkacy

A retired registered nurse and current member of Endicott’s Board of Trustees, Ayune Michel ’72 says one thing that fueled her decision to go into nursing more than 50 years ago: independence. 

“It was an easy way out of the house,” Michel said with a laugh. “It’s the truth. I couldn’t wait to be out on my own and be independent.”

These days, Michel is spreading that strong-willed spirit with a $2 million gift to Endicott’s Cummings School of Nursing & Health Sciences through Spread Your Wings: The Campaign for Endicott College

Cummings SchoolEndicott’s dynamic nursing program is at an important crossroads. After a $20 million commitment from Cummings Foundation in October 2021, Endicott and Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals announced a collaboration that will create an educational pipeline for new nurses, with the hospitals becoming the preferred clinical sites for more than 600 nursing students.   

Michel’s gift will ensure the program’s continued success as it becomes a vital nursing pipeline to remedy the country’s critical nursing shortage.  

Growing up, it was Michel’s father who urged her to consider a career in nursing like her mother, who was a nurse for infants at the former North Shore Babies’ Hospital. 

A registered pharmacist, he told his only daughter that nursing was a job that would always be in demand.

“I didn’t go into pharmacy because that was the route chosen for my brother, and he was to take over the family business,” Michel said. “My father saw nursing as stability.”

At night, Michel went to sleep under a 16-by-16-inch poster of a nurse outfitted in the garb of the time—“the cape, the cap, the gown, you know, the whole bit,” she recalled.

“My mother had always wanted me to go to Endicott, but I never wanted to do what she wanted me to do,” said Michel. “Interesting how things work out.”

Michel’s long career in medicine was preceded by several stints in higher education. She completed an advanced nursing program at Newton-Wellesley, took night classes at Northeastern University to earn a degree in health science, and attended Framingham State University for a master’s in healthcare administration. But before everything, she earned a pre-physical therapy degree from Endicott.

“For me, Endicott was a no-brainer,” Michel said. “Even 50 years ago, the campus was beautiful. And I had some really good instructors.” While not a medical curriculum per se, a speech course helped her develop some key life skills. “So simple but yet it came in 10 times its worth,” she said. 

At Endicott, Michel made three lifelong friends. “We get together once a year,” she said. Originally weekend gatherings, these visits have evolved into full-fledged vacations for the longtime pals. “Everybody’s retired, so we can take the time off.”

While Michel’s medical career culminated with an impressive role—Director of Health Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts—she believes that Endicott’s evolution over the years may just eclipse her personal achievements. 

“Oh my god, it’s amazing, absolutely amazing,” she says about the College’s growth since her graduation. “I'm thrilled that the Cummings School is going to have a major in healthcare administration.”

As a Trustee and member of Endicott’s Academic Committee, Michel has already made a big impact in ensuring the College keeps trending in the right direction. “We go over new programs and give our support or not to the board,” she said. “We’ve got a new provost, and she’s got her own ideas about reforming and making some changes, so that’s exciting.”

Michel knew she wanted to give back and get more involved after a chance run-in with the late former President Dr. Richard Wylie. “I had the opportunity of meeting Wylie just a few years before he passed, and I was just amazed at what they were doing at Endicott. That was the beginning of my interest in the College again,” she said. 

These days, Michel splits her time between Cape Cod and Florida, but she said that remaining active and involved with her alma mater makes her feel like a VIP.

“I’m in a position where I have no children, basically have no family left, and Endicott is kind of like my stepchild,” she said with another laugh. 

A stepchild she’s more than proud of. 

“Back in June, Brandi Johnson (Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer) took a few of us board members on a tour of the renovations at the Center for Belonging & Inclusion,” she said. “I was amazed.”

Learn more about Spread Your Wings: The Campaign for Endicott College and ways to get involved.