This is compassion: the class of 2024

Colby Mashburn ’24 spent much of his childhood in and out of the emergency room at his local hospital – and not just because his dad was a paramedic. 

Colby Mashburn stands in front of McCrorie Center

“When I was young, I was a very adventurous kid,” Mashburn shared while showing the tattoo of a cross that surrounds a scar on his right arm. “I broke my arm jumping off the monkey bars in fifth grade. One of the other kids grabbed my legs. I went down and my arm shattered.”

Mashburn added that the monkey bar incident was the fifth time that arm had been broken. The first happened when a well-meaning pre-kindergarten teacher tried to include Mashburn by joining him on a seesaw during recess.

“I was a very, very small child,” said Mashburn. “She didn’t fully account for the size difference, so when she sat down, I went flying. It was like a cartoon!”

Between his dad’s profession and all those childhood hours spent in the ER, perhaps Mashburn’s choice to major in nursing at LR was inevitable, but he didn’t always know that.

“For a while, I thought about joining the Marines because I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself,” he said. “When I moved away from that idea, I thought about my dad’s paramedic stories and all my injuries. Gross things didn’t bother me, and I still wanted to make a difference for people, so healthcare seemed like the way to go. Nursing has so much flexibility, so many options.”

After a year of study and clinical rotations in the rigorous program at Lenoir-Rhyne, Mashburn wasn’t completely sure nursing was the right career path for him. His job as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) that summer removed those doubts.

“I worked five or six days a week that summer, and I had one patient who was newly diagnosed with cancer. I worked closely with him for a whole week,” Mashburn shared. “It was really hard for him, and since I worked night shifts, I had a little more time to sit with him and talk, just be there while he was awake and worried all night. The last day I was assigned to him, he called me in and thanked me for helping him find the hope to fight.”

The real impact happened a day later, after Mashburn had been reassigned to a different set of patients at the facility.

“The CNA who was assigned to that patient wasn’t paying as much attention, and the patient fell and hit his head. He died later that day,” said Mashburn. “That whole week stuck with me, though. Details matter. I want to prevent that for other people, give them a second chance – a chance to make the most of the time they have – even if they think they don’t have one.”

Colby Mashburn standing in front of the McCrorie Center

That spirit of giving back has informed many of Mashburn’s extracurricular activities at LR as well. He has volunteered with Toys for Tots in his hometown of Lincolnton, North Carolina – his uncle, a former Marine, is an organizer. On campus, he has been active with Engaged Scholars and with philanthropic efforts for his fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi.

“I was a little skeptical because you hear all these stereotypes about fraternities, but it’s nothing like that. Our philanthropy, The Ability Experience, raises funds for people with disabilities, especially kids and veterans.”

In his last year at LR, as Mashburn finished his coursework and prepared for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), he also worked part-time in the critical care unit at Catawba Valley Medical Center, monitoring electrocardiogram (EKG) data as a technician and assisting on the floor as a nurse’s aide. After graduation, he will join the nursing staff in the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Frye Regional Medical Center. In the long term, Mashburn plans to continue his education in anesthesia school.

“I’ve seen so many patients, so many people, who’ve given their hope to me, to their other nurses,” he shared. “It drives you to want to know more, learn more, and be able to give the best you can, as much as you can.”

Deby Mitchell

Lenoir-Rhyne has named veteran classroom teacher and school administrator Deby Mitchell, Ed.D., as the university's new director of disability services.

View More
Six members of the grant writing team for the Noyce scholarship program stand in the George Hall lobby

Awarded through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, the funds will diversify STEM education by providing scholarships for Master of Arts in teaching students specializing in STEM subjects.

View More