Several years ago, Mary “Penny” Enroth was dining at a restaurant, when she overheard a nursing professor discussing the fact that most nursing instructors were quickly nearing retirement age. Enroth, a passionate supporter of public health initiatives, quickly put two-and-two together; namely, qualified nursing instructors retiring + strong demand for nurses = big public health problem.

Understanding the implications of the projected nursing shortage and determined to make a difference, Enroth channeled a portion of her passion into projects that help the nursing profession and, in turn, improve public health. To date, the Enroth scholarship has helped eight nursing students at Alverno, and, of these, six have already graduated and are working as nurses. Enroth’s contributions also helped the JoAnn McGrath School of Nursing obtain two simulation mannequins that students use to hone their clinical skills.

A native of Kenosha, Enroth attended Kemper Hall  as a young student, and sees many similarities between her values-based education at Kemper and the abilities-based curriculum at Alverno. “At Kemper, faith and religion weren’t just a Sunday thing; we lived it. It permeated our lives. Our motto was ‘Fight the good fight,’ which meant stand up and be counted, do something positive,” Enroth says. “It was about empowering women. I see that goal at Alverno, too. The first time I came to campus, I was impressed with how the college was helping students gain self-confidence to complete undergraduate or graduate nursing degrees, and later to assume leadership roles in health.”

Enroth’s interest in public health arose, in part, from her experiences living and working around the world, including Boston, Mexico City, New York, San Francisco and La Rochelle, France. Living abroad, she quickly realized the importance of clean water and health care, and the impact of extreme poverty.

“When you meet people from all over the world, you begin to realize what the world needs,” Enroth says. As a result, she’s been an active supporter of initiatives to improve health, education and access to clean water. She currently serves as chairman of The Palmer Foundation, a nonprofit that awards grants to support youth empowerment, public health and environmental initiatives.

Enroth is also the founder and first president of Kemper Center, Inc. and actively involved in the Urban Ecology Center, an environmental education organization based in Milwaukee. She’s devoted countless hours to developing policy for the Great Lakes Compact because she’s concerned about the health and well-being of the nation’s Great Lakes.

While Enroth currently resides in North Carolina (and spends summers in Door County), her heart is still in the state. “Wisconsin has good common sense,” she says. “Sometimes I think the East coast is all brain and the West coast is all heart. The Midwest is sort of a blend of the two. I’ve always had, and always will have, a special place in my heart for Wisconsin.”

Enroth will be honored for her contributions to nursing and Alverno College at this year’s Celebration of Giving, an event that recognizes the meaningful contributions of scholarship donors. Enroth is receiving the Bene Award for her numerous charitable contributions to the College.