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updated: 6/12/2014 4:19 PM

Harper nursing teacher was 'the one the students remember'

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  • Jean Hastings Genster

    Jean Hastings Genster

By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent

Nearly every student who goes through Harper College's nursing program remembers the series of Mrs. Hastings videos.

They feature a cranky, difficult patient who breaks nearly every hospital rule in the book, challenging students to draw up a plan of care that convinces her to cooperate, for her own good.

Jean Hastings Genster, one of the Palatine college's original full-time nursing faculty, created the memorable role, and she played against type. Her legions of former students remember her as one of their favorite teachers, whose sense of humor made classes fun.

Genster passed away May 3. The longtime Schaumburg resident was 75.

"She's the one students remember," said Peg Burdach-Webb of Rolling Meadows, a former director of the nursing program. "Her rapport with students was amazing. They just loved her."

Genster grew up in Delaware and earned her nursing degree at the University of Delaware. She joined Harper's nursing faculty in 1970 as its first obstetrics teacher, and remained an assistant professor for nearly 30 years, teaching more than 3,500 students.

For most of those years, she co-taught with Margie Sterrett, instructing students in medical-surgical courses. Genster and Sterrett covered everything from orthopedic nursing to caring for patients with chronic conditions like diabetes, congestive heart failure and asthma.

"They gave students a foundation in their first year, and then reinforced it in their second year," said Julie D'Agostino, Harper's nursing director. "Jean always taught with a sense of humor. She was just a kind, caring, gentle woman."

After teaching day courses at the college, Genster worked the night shift at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, serving in both the oncology and substance abuse units.

"She was a practicing nurse the whole time she taught, and she brought that practical experience to her students," Burdach-Webb said.

As an early faculty member, Genster and her colleagues strove to prepare students for four-year institutions, often Northern Illinois University. They paved the way for a formal partnership between Harper and Northern, announced in 2006, that allows nursing students to complete their bachelor's degrees in nursing at the Palatine campus.

"Most of our students continue to work in this area," Burdach-Webb said. "So, I can safely say that Jean was responsible for a lot of good nurses in the area."

Genster was preceded in death by her daughter, Mary Beth Sherrer. She is survived by her daughter, Patricia, and son, Robert, as well as six grandchildren.

Visitation will take place from 1-4 p.m. Saturday, with a celebration of life service at 2:30 p.m., all at Michaels Funeral Home, 800 S. Roselle Road, Schaumburg.

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