With Saint Luke’s Now Part of RU, Student Shares Surprising Bond with Grandmother

Friday, November 6, 2020
Student Emma Barben and her grandmother on campus

Saint Luke’s College of Health Sciences becoming part of Rockhurst University means lots of new connections are being forged — between faculty and staff colleagues and students. For sophomore Emma Barben, it’s meant sharing a surprising new connection with her grandmother.

“It was special to see mail arrive from Rockhurst for both myself and my grandmother,” said Barben. “It was not until this past fall, with the discussion of the merger, that I fully realized my grandmother graduated from Saint Luke’s College of Health Sciences.”

Diane Abercrombie

Diane (Abercrombie) Estes graduated from what was then known as the Saint Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing in 1954, an honor-roll scholar with a prolific career ahead of her.

She would go on to, among other things, become the official nurse of the Girl Scouts and Girl Guides at the International Scouting Jamboree in Sweden, earn her master’s degree in gerontology and counseling from the University of Nebraska, form a company to advocate for seniors in the community, and even start her own practice as a licensed mental health practitioner.

She retired at the age of 78, but her granddaughter claims that hasn’t stopped her from helping others.

“Once a caregiver, always a caregiver,” Barben said. “Once a nurse, always a nurse.”

Emma, following in her grandmother’s footsteps, shares a similar passion for others as she now studies international business and Spanish here at Rockhurst.

“My grandmother liked caring for people and was interested in the medical field,” Barben said. “I know I want to serve others and make a difference in their lives by utilizing my skills and servant heart.”

Estes, now 87, is in the early stages of dementia, but the relationship she shares with her granddaughter is as strong as ever. They walked around campus together in the summer of 2019.

Barben talked about how her grandmother would smile when reminded she was currently going to Rockhurst. Stories were then shared of her many memories of the school from over the years.

“When we approached Sedgwick, my grandmother recognized the street side of the building from her time spent in Kansas City,” said Barben. For this reason, it was bittersweet when Barben learned of Sedgwick’s planned renovations. She reflected on how things had come full circle.

“We shared sadness over the thought of potentially losing the one building she recognized on campus,” said Barben, but “the transformation of Sedgwick has also brought us great joy.”

“It is so neat that the one building on campus my grandmother recognized will soon be the home of the nursing school she graduated from 66 years ago.”