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Legacy Society Spotlight

Zelma Lewis '87

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Zelma Lewis Photo

“Pay it Forward. Never take your education for granted.”

How did you first become involved with Holy Names University?

Over 40 years ago, I lived with a roommate who attended HNU. I attended HNU (it was called Holy Names College when we went there) from 1985-1987 where I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

What is your favorite moment of your student days?

Because I was a married student with a child, I was only at the campus for classes and certain limited activities. I loved going to the campus, which is very picturesque. Sr. Maureen Hester was my favorite Professor. I loved her gracious and infectious sense of humor. She taught me Statistics; I actually passed her class with an “A.”

When I was an active HNU alum, I met my beloved mentor, Dr. Fannie Brown. She was an African American Professor, who was well known for her love for the HNU Sisters. She and her Beloved Bill were generous financial donors to HNU.

What are you most proud of in your life?

I am most proud of being the joyous person I am today at the wonderful age of 76 years old. I am grateful to have learned how to live mindfully through a pandemic and support others in the process. What pleases me these days in my retirement is that I am connecting with and mentoring young and old. I only wish my spouse, Robert Rochel, were alive today to enjoy the fruits of our retirement together.

Tell us about your greatest adventure to-date!

My greatest adventure to date was to go to Cape Town, South Africa in 2019 with family and friends. I love to travel. I have been on several cruises. During my lifetime, I worked in Vietnam for 2 years. I have travelled to Nigeria, Kenya, Jamaica, Hawaii, Haiti, India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and parts of Europe and Canada. I spent some time in Greece with my Greek family in 2017. I have known them since 1968 and we are still close. Now, I travel mostly domestically by plane, train, or car.

What inspired you to include Holy Names in your estate plan?

In 1992, I obtained my MSN/GNP from UCSF. However, because I love Oakland and because of the wonderful memories I had at HNU both as a student and an alum, I decided to include Holy Names University Nursing Dept. in my estate plans. I am a lifelong learner and I have a fervent belief in helping our next generation.

What words of advice do you have for future generations of HNU students?

My advice to HNU students would be to “Pay it Forward” in whatever form that takes when the opportunity arises. Never take your education for granted. Though the pandemic has slowed down the economy and many college students are struggling, keep your eyes on the prize. Trust that the Universe will help you to achieve all that you desire.

What do you want HNU students to know about you?

I want the HNU students to know that I am a Proud, Unapologetic African American woman. I want them to know that HNU was not always as diverse and inclusive as it is now. Many years ago, there were only 1-2 professors of color, no Black nursing professors, and very few students of color on the entire campus. I am happily retired, but I am busy. I am active at my church which is active in the Oakland community. I walk/hike, Zoom, travel, dance, write, read, laugh, love, live and meditate and pray daily. I have a son, Sonne Rochel, of whom I am very proud.

What is your greatest hope for the future of Holy Names?

My greatest hope is that HNU will continue to be a beacon and gatekeeper for Radical social justice in the areas of race relations, education, gender, health and economic equity. That is a tall order, but I believe my Holy Names University is up for the challenge because of the superb education which the university offers to its student body. I love the current HNU magazine with its diverse students who are our present and our future.

Blessings and Peace,
Zelma Lewis, HNU BSN, Class of 1987