Ferris State Alumni Association
420 Oak Street, Big Rapids
When Kathy (Matuszewski) Seckinger came to Ferris State College in 1981, health information management studies were very different than they are today. Paper records were the norm, and computing was only beginning to emerge as a new and exciting alternative.
But some things, such as the commitment of hardworking Ferris students to build careers on the foundation of a practical education—and the challenges those students faced—were not so different.
Kathy had started work as a medical records clerk at her local hospital in Bay City, Michigan, through a work program she was enrolled in as a student of John Glenn High School.
"I was fortunate enough to just stumble onto something that interested me, and I found there was a degree in it," Kathy said. "So, I searched for a reputable university and found Ferris. It was an opportunity to do something important, something better than just a dead-end job. It was a career."
As easily as she had found her calling, Kathy had to struggle to keep her vision within reach.
"My time at Ferris was memorable in that I enjoyed the classes, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay on campus very long," she said."Part of my problem was that I had to work to afford to go to school. I had a small scholarship grant, but that was it."
Kathy managed to coordinate her schedule so that she could retain her clerk job. She studied full-time at Ferris Monday through Thursday and then returned to the hospital in Bay City to put in a 30-hour work week Friday through Sunday. As demanding as the schedule was, Kathy felt it was worth it.
"Ferris did an excellent job preparing me for my career. I had the best instructors, the classes were spot-on with all of the technical things that we needed to learn, and the program was accredited by the American Health Information Management Association. Once I graduated, I got my certification from the association," she said.
All of Kathy’s hard work and the high quality of her program quickly paid off.
"In winter quarter of my second year, I had done an internship at another hospital, away from my home town. They hired me, and I continued working weekends at that facility, at a more technical job," she said. "I was actually a coding technician before I had even graduated, and, once I did graduate, I immediately got the job of my dreams."
In her studies, Kathy had discovered that she wanted to manage a medical records department. Upon graduation with her associate degree in Medical Records Technology in 1983, Kathy figured that she would move into the role over time, eventually earning the responsibilities by working overnight shifts.
"I wanted to run a medical records department and do all of the fun things that I had learned. I thought I would probably work my way up to be a supervisor on a third shift somewhere," she said.
However, Kathy’s manager pointed her toward a small hospital in Nelsonville, Ohio, that needed a manager for its department. Kathy’s combination of education, certification and work experience proved winning. Right out of college, she had landed her dream job.
After enjoying years of professional success during which she met her husband, Mark Seckinger, a successful health care administrator in his own right, Kathy began to reflect on their journeys and the role of education in them. She and Mark would never have met had it not been for their professional opportunities, but those opportunities came out of educations that had been hard-won. She and Mark decided to make a gift in support of students like them.
In September 2018, Kathy and Mark established an estate gift of $2 million that will fund the Kathleen H. (Matuszewski) and Mark R. Seckinger Scholarship Endowment, for students in Ferris’ College of Health Professions.
"My husband also had to work through college, and my working 30-hour work weeks and trying to study and get everything done—it was just hard, it was very hard. I was so motivated, and I was lucky that I had a supportive family, but some people aren’t that lucky," Kathy said.
"I want people to be able to focus on their academics and graduate into a profession that they would like to pursue."
In addition to the benefits of the scholarship to students, said Carla Miller, executive director of The Ferris Foundation, the gift also will benefit those whom they go on to serve in their careers.
"Kathy and Mark Seckinger’s gift will help local students who are pursuing careers in which they will improve the health and wellness of their neighbors and communities," said Carla Miller, executive director of The Ferris Foundation. "The Seckingers really are 'paying it forward' in one of the most meaningful ways possible. Their legacy at Ferris will be one of care, not only for students in the health care fields, but also for the patients those students will serve in the course of their careers."
"I am honored to accept Kathy and Mark Seckinger’s gift on behalf of the College of Health Professions. In part, gifts like these represent the value our graduates place on the education they received from our college. The Seckingers’ commitment demonstrates that we are not only delivering quality health care education at Ferris but we are transforming lives in a way that motivates our graduates to give back in a significant way," said Interim Dean of the College of Health Professions Lincoln Gibbs. "This extraordinary gift will allow us to expand scholarship opportunities for our students so they may pursue their educational dreams while incurring less debt, and help the college attract, retain and graduate the finest health care professionals for generations to come."
The scholarship will be awarded with preference for students who attend John Glenn High School and/or are from the Bay City or Bay County areas.
"That’s home, and that’s where I came from— small town girl, first-generation college graduate, and my sister, also a first-generation college graduate. I knew lots of friends who were not able to go to college," Kathy said. "I want my friends’ grandchildren to be able to go to college."