The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Karen M. Plotkin Nursing Scholarship

Karen Plotkin at Graduation


Karen’s 1994 UMass Graduate Graduation Ceremony. Karen earned her Ph.D. in 2004 and was a UMass Amherst School of Nursing Teacher and Professor from 1993 to 2014. 

This excerpt, dated July 28th, 2016 in her own handwriting, is a portion from three pages that Karen wrote in a notebook found in her dresser a month after her death. She may have been thinking about her mortality when this was written, as she spoke of missing her father who had passed two years earlier.

Karen Plotkin's journal

Having lived with several chronic illnesses throughout much of her adult life, her failing health finally forced her to leave the career she loved at UMass as a Professor of Nursing.

Each semester during her distinguished career, students would mail handwritten cards, expressing their gratitude for her supportiveness, kindness, understanding, guidance, passion, inspiration, and dedication in the classroom.  The following passages are taken from cards that were found in a box after her passing:

“You have a kind, caring and understanding heart….You gave me the confidence and courage to go on in nursing school”

“I couldn’t have made it without you…your input, leadership, and overall caring nature…I might have given up long ago. You are amazing”

“You are the most intelligent and caring instructor that I have ever had”

“You are an inspiration, a wonderful professor and supportive mentor….in times I was ready to give up, you believed and supported me.  You are an angel”

“I heard about you from so many others and was thrilled to get you for my instructor…Your understanding allowed me to open up about my life…Your children are truly blessed to have you as their mother”

“I was so delighted about the honor of your being distinguished teacher of the year. You have always gone above and beyond and deserve such recognition.” 

“I find an ordinary thank you extremely inadequate for the gift of inspiration…words cannot express what your help has meant to me”

From the dean of the nursing department.  “It is precisely your type of excellent teaching and service that fulfills the university mission.”

From another professor: “I don’t know that there is another professor so vested in students learning. You inspire me. Some people come and go in our lives while others leave footprints in our hearts forever.”

I have made a donation to the scholarship fund each year in Karen’s memory, however, I was unable to set up a memorial fund in perpetuity. I am thrilled to announce that this year (2020) I am able to finance the amount needed to set up the Karen M. Plotkin Nursing Scholarship.

I am grateful for any donation you are able to make, whether that be a one-time or annual contribution.  Please help grow the fund to assist nursing students with financial need in Karen’s memory. 

Click here to make a donation to the Karen M. Plotkin Nursing Scholarship. 

Thank you all,

In loving memory of Karen,

John Plotkin