“A girl can do anything if she gets her education.” That was the belief Coletta “Kitty” Klug instilled in her nieces. And through a gift to the St. Mary’s Medical Center Foundation, she’s continuing to help future generations of women and men believe it as well.
Klug was working in the office of Fostoria Glass in Moundsville, West Virginia, when her sister, a 1943 graduate of the St. Mary’s School of Nursing (SON), encouraged Klug to enter the Cadet Nursing Corps, a federal program designed to alleviate the nursing shortage in the U.S. during World War II. So, Klug came to Huntington and enrolled at the St. Mary’s SON. But by the time of her graduation in 1948, the war had ended, along with the corps program. So Klug became a nurse and clinical instructor at St. Mary’s Hospital. In 1951, she began her work at VA hospitals in Huntington, West Virginia; Chillicothe and Cincinnati, Ohio; and Buffalo, New York. It was working with veterans that piqued her interest in psychiatric medicine, and she eventually earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in the field. Klug became a professor of psychiatric nursing at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where her doctoral dissertation, “Constructive-Destructive Self,” addressing issues of stress reduction, relationships and mental health for young adults, was published as a textbook. In 1992, after more than 30 years, she retired from full-time teaching and her duties as a department chair, but remained a mentor, adviser and part-time instructor for several years. Klug also took her message into the schools and was instrumental in establishing one of the first suicide prevention hotlines in western New York. Klug died July 15, 2018.
“Aunt Kitty was a Renaissance woman,” said Margaret Roberts, Klug’s niece. “She was smart, talented, pretty, ambitious and successful, but she always looked back to her home in West Virginia.”
Klug never married, so when she died, her heirs were her 18 surviving nieces and nephews. Roberts was her trustee, but the entire family was agreeable to using the money she left to do something regarding education, since they knew it was so important to her.
“I didn’t even have to ask them. The whole family started saying, ‘We need to do something,’” Roberts said.
That something is the Coletta Klug Scholarship, which is awarded each semester to a student of the St. Mary’s School of Nursing. Roberts chose the St. Mary’s SON because of her aunt’s connection to the school, but also because it offers two-year nursing degrees.
“Some people can’t afford to jump immediately into a four-year bachelor’s degree nursing program, so this still gives them the opportunity to pursue their dream,” Roberts said. “It’s a huge asset to the state.”
Earlier this year, the SON awarded the first ever Klug Scholarship, which meant the world to Roberts and her family, knowing their aunt’s legacy of championing education continues.
“There are many nurses in the family,” Roberts said. “She was an inspiration to us, and now she continues to inspire even more students in her beloved West Virginia and beyond.”
For more information about giving to the Coletta Klug Scholarship or to the St. Mary’s Foundation, call 304.526.2658 or click here.