MORRIS - Dr. Sally Norton, a 1979 graduate, felt a little bit of deja vu as she walked back through the doors of Morris Community High School to give a speech to the 169 students being recognized for honors night.
"I was terrifically excited to come back," she said after the event.
She said it was both weird and exciting to walk back in to a building which held so many memories and looked so familiar.
For Jessika Kodat, a 2017 graduate, listening to someone who has accomplished so much gave her a special hope as she looks to her future.
Dr. Norton received her undergraduate degree in nursing from the University of Iowa, her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Oregon Health and Sciences University. She also serves as a tenured associate professor of nursing at the University of Rochester and holds the inaugural Independence Chair in Nursing and Palliative Care.
Dr. Norton is dedicated to improving the care of patients with advanced illness. A nationally recognized expert in palliative care research, she has worked successfully across professions to improve communication and understanding surrounding systems of palliative care and hospice delivery.
Norton who is an active teacher, mentor, and researchers the recipient of numerous awards, a fellow of the Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses Association and the American Academy of Nursing and she has served on several national committees.
Kodat, who has sat in the national honor roll chairs since she was in junior high school, and now through all four years of high school, said she is always amazed by the speakers the district chooses.
"I never used to think people who graduated here went on to be so successful, so many of them," Kodat said. "It shows me I can be as successful as those that have spoken to me each year."
Dr. Norton said she went to her son for advice before writing the night's speech.
"I reached out to my son for advice. He said 'Mom, be brief, be engaging,' " she said. "Well, what he actually said was 'Don't talk too long and don't bore them to death.'"
This was advice she seemed to heed as she kept their attention and told the group not only about her field but also about success.
"You, you get to decide what success means in your life. Does it mean earning a lot of money, having a loving family, travelling the world, or working a job you love?" she asked those in attendance.
She went to tell them to prioritize and balance those things along the way.
"Dr. Norton was able to relate the solid educational foundation she received at MCHS to her professional success," superintendent Pat Halloran said after the event. "Honors night is always a great reminder of the talented students and supportive parents we have in Morris."