Living Legacies – Dr. Nancy King

Nancy King

In 1991, Dr. Nancy King joined the Saint Mary family—and what an impact she’s made over her 28 year tenure. Initially, she served as a counselor and drug education coordinator, before accepting her dream job: psychology faculty.

“I came from a place where the philosophy was ‘we teach, you learn. And if you get it, great … if you don’t, you’re on your own,’” explained Dr. King. “It blew my mind here. Faculty, especially the Sisters, taught me that it was okay to love your students.”

And that love for her students took Dr. King well past the three-year promise she’d made to herself about staying at Saint Mary. On top of teaching, she got involved with athletics—coaching basketball, softball, and volleyball and serving as the faculty athletic representative for years.

“Dr. King WAS the reason I went into psychology. I came from California to Kansas for softball, with a mind to be a physical therapist – and then my whole mindset changed when I met Dr. Nancy King. I took one simple aging class about the elderly, and I was hooked. She was truthful, honest, consistent in her teaching methods, and an inspiration. And I still think of her often when I go to work.” – Jessica Saldana, U’16

Dr. King made an incredible connection with the Sisters, integrating them as a part of her Psychology of Aging class—a class that had an incredible impact on not just the students, but the Sisters. Sister Lucy Walter, speaking on behalf of both the Mother House and Ross Hall Sisters, said, “Thank you for allowing us to participate with your university students for so many wonderful years. Dr. King’s creative idea was fantastic, and the Sisters and students formed so many friendships throughout those years, while both learning so much from each other.”

She continued with, “I must also add—every year, as Dr. King introduced her students, she always said they were the best ‘kids’ she has ever known, and she meant it! Thanks, Dr. King, for always seeing the best in everyone—respecting them and bringing out their gifts.”

“I will never forget her pleasant voice and smile! Definitely one of a kind with a heart to match her incredible gift for teaching. Thank you for your genuine conversations and constant support.” – Geoff Peterson, U’09

Along with teaching a variety of psychology courses, Dr. King also taught Freshmen Learning Communities and Senior Integrative Experience courses, and she served on the development team for the applied liberal arts curriculum. She led the university’s Mission Council, and she also served as a co-chair of the Assessment Committee—a group of faculty and staff dedicated to creating a sustainable culture with an embedded mission as well as developing and evaluating methods to assess its effectiveness.

“Dr. King! Oh, man! There are so many memories. I absolutely loved every minute of your classes! Thank you for sharing all your stories and knowledge – but most of all, thank you for sharing your laugh. You are one of the teachers I hold near to my heart.” – Alicia Allan, U’09

Saint Many honored Dr. King in 1996 with the university’s top teaching honor, the coveted Sullivan Award for Teaching Excellence. This annual honor is awarded to a full-time faculty member who “has made a distinct difference in the teaching climate at the University of Saint Mary.” In 2016, the Kansas Independent College Association also named her recipient of their “Faculty of Distinction” award.

“Dr. King was always at our women’s basketball games with a huge smile on her face, win or lose. After every game (or anytime I would see her in the hallway), she would always talk to me about my last game or ask how I was doing. I can honestly say Dr. King truly made me feel at home and always knew how to make me laugh when I was down. Thank you, Dr. King, for being such an amazing professor, mentor, and friend while I was at USM!” – Dawn Walker, U’06

“Nancy is a devoted faculty member who embodies our core values and embraces our Saint Mary mission,” said USM President Sr. Diane Steele. “She’s committed to her students, with her main objective to help each and every one of them find their God-given potential. In her teaching philosophy, Dr. King says, ‘I seldom know what kind of storm my students have gone through before they attend my class or come to talk with me. I believe my purpose as a teacher and mentor is to be a beacon in their storm, to provide hope, and to empower them, and for them to know that they are safe whether in my classroom or in my office.’ And that philosophy wasn’t just something she said because it sounded remarkable—she lived it out and inspired each one of us to do the same.”

More Praise for Dr. King:

“Sometimes you know that God has placed someone in your life at just the right moment and time.  Words cannot express how grateful I am that God blessed me with meeting Dr. Nancy King. She was there for me when I was struggling to cope with understanding my mother’s early onset dementia.  When I felt like my world as I knew it was caving in on me because I had “lost” the one person (my mother) who had always been my rock, Dr. King was there for me. She helped me to not only understand scientifically what was happening with my mother, but also she was there for me as a friend to support me. Words cannot express how much she has impacted my life.” – Kelly Stark, former staff


“Dr. King has been the biggest Influence in my life. As an incoming freshman, I was all about science. I ended up taking “Intro to Psych” class with her … and the rest is history. There are several characteristics that make her great, but the one that will always stay with me is her ability to care and show genuine interest in the lives of all people around her not just students. She has an ability to bring the best out of people and show them their potential. I never felt like I had to be in class, but I wanted to be in class. Because of Dr. King, I want to do the same. I want to help others. I want to teach and impact the lives of aspiring students! She is USM’s greatest treasure, and she will be missed!” – Carlos Mena, U’17

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