Last month, test results of 152 commissioned ROTC nursing students became available and at the top of the list was Lt. Connor Marston ’16, who graduated summa cum laude from USF’s nursing program in December. Based on the highest combined grades, physical fitness levels and Army and nursing skills training scores of 152 individual ROTC nursing students from across the country, Marston was revealed to be the number one nursing graduate in the nation.
Marston said he could have not won without first undergoing one of the worst stretches of his life, which included an accident he suffered in 2011, when he was struck by a car and thrown 30 feet from his motorcycle. While recovering at San Francisco General Hospital, Marston was inspired by the care he’d received and realized that he too wanted to help the ill.
The Foghorn recently spoke with Marston, currently stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii, about what it took in order to accomplish this feat.
FOGHORN: How did you find out that you were the No. 1 Army ROTC nursing graduate in the nation? Who informed you?
MARSTON: I received a call from Lt. Col. Sean Williams. After commissioning as an Army officer in August, I had been waiting to receive my orders which, very importantly, would specify where I was going to be stationed. When I saw that Lt. Col. Williams was calling I was expecting he was calling concerning my Army orders. He told me that the orders were on the way but that he had good news.
F: What was your first reaction?
M: My first reaction was excitement. I was excited to tell my fianceé and my parents because I knew it would mean a lot to them and that they would be proud. For myself, I think I felt validation. Doing Army ROTC, USF Nursing, and a part time job all at the same time came with a lot of sacrifice. It was straining on my relationships to have so many commitments. There were also many occasions where I had to put extra hours into managing old injuries from the Marine Corps training and a motorcycle accident. So, again, personally, in that moment I felt those sacrifices were validated by the recognition.
F: Was anything awarded to you for the accomplishment?
M: In the Army, many high ranking personnel will carry what are called “challenge coins” with them. Usually the coins will say the name of the person who gives them out, or recognizes the Army unit that they are from. I received a challenge coin from Maj. Gen. Barbara Holcomb, Chief of the Nurse Corps. This was an honor, specifically in that it was coming from the Army Nurse Corps chain of command.
F: Did you even know that you were vying for the number one spot? Were you conscious of the fact that you could achieve this?
M: I appreciate this question […] I appreciate it because I can shed light on some information that I would want to communicate to the new ROTC cadets and nursing students at USF.
I never once woke up on a given day, while at USF, and thought “today I am going to work towards being number one.” The largest driver of my commitment to perform well was my fianceé. Wherever I was assigned, I knew I was going to have to ask her to move with me, and I also knew that there were a few key things I could control in that process: my grades/GPA, my fitness scores, my evaluations in ROTC. So I really tried my best to maximize my performance so that we would both be happy with my first duty assignment. The second driver of my commitment to work hard was wanting to improve every day, for myself. I always try and maintain that inner dialogue of asking myself whether I can push myself a bit further. Taking those both into consideration, I would say that was my personal “why.” I think it is very important to approach commitments in life with a “why?” If you are simply going out every day to please an authority figure, your parents, to be number one you will eventually hit a wall. Life is not a straight road and there are going to be times where you struggle to tap into that “why,” if you never had a “why” in the first place you’ll end up lost.
F: What’s next? Where will you be honing your skills?
M: I am currently stationed at Tripler Medical Center in Hawaii. I am working on a telemetry floor and I will be here for a three year tour. After that, if I stay in the military, I would like to attend the 6-month-long Intensive Care Unit (ICU) course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. After that, I would have to serve at least one year as an ICU nurse.
Photo Credit: University of San Francisco