Tim Dignen, winner of the 2017 Harrison Award - the top graduate honor at Chesapeake College - says he is just getting started.
At an age when many are preparing to wrap up their careers, the 62-year-old veteran is preparing to start a new one. He graduated from Chesapeake on May 24 with an associate’s degree in nursing. Mr. Dignen’s passion and service have been an inspiration to Chesapeake’s students, faculty and staff.
After a stint in the United States Air Force, Mr. Dignen returned to Maryland where he began work with the facilities department at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. He retired from the Academy after 30 years. A licensed Electrician, Mr. Dignen is the owner of Dignen and Sons Electrical Contracting.
Feeling a need to serve others and dealing with his own health issues, Mr. Dignen said he had an epiphany in 2012.
“I was recovering and doing rehab from a cardiac event. I had started to burn out from a career in the skilled trades, so I was doing a lot of thinking about my future as I was working on my health. I realized that I needed to do something where I felt like I was helping people and really making a difference,” Mr. Dignen said. “One day during a work-out in the gym, “nursing” came into my head. I knew then that I had to focus on that goal.”
Nursing, he decided, would be his next professional pursuit and he enrolled at Chesapeake College the following day. As a non-traditional student, Mr. Dignen worked through the challenges of returning to school while juggling a business and family responsibilities.
“If you’re lucky enough to find a passion in life, then you have to pursue it,” Mr. Dignen said.
Like many non-traditional students changing careers, Mr. Dignen said he found the technology demands on 21st Century college students his toughest challenge.
“High school students today are used to working with technology, so they come to college ready. I didn’t have that background, and I needed to find a way to catch up quickly. So, I had to Google a lot and spent many hours in the Academic Support Center,” Mr. Dignen said.
Mr. Dignen shared that determination to succeed with his classmates and became a mentor to many fellow students.
“Tim quietly makes a strong impact wherever he goes. He’s also a kind person who goes out of his way to help others. For example, when he was taking College Algebra at night, a few of his classmates were struggling but were unable to get over to the Academic Support Center. He study buddied with them, I believe weekly, in the 20-30 minutes that they had available between arrival on campus after work and the start of class,” said Academic Support Center Specialist MaryLu Towey. “Tim is a true renaissance man. He is highly intelligent, kind, engaged with the college community and with learning and life.”
Mr. Dignen is a Certified Nursing Assistant with the University of Maryland Shore Regional and Compass Regional Hospice. He plans to pursue a nursing career in either surgical or hospice care. He will begin online classes for a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Stevenson University this fall.
He is a member of the Oncology Nursing Society, American Association of Critical-Care in Nursing and American Association for Men in Nursing.
As a student at Chesapeake, Mr. Dignen has been a student leader and peer mentor. A high-achieving student with a 3.4 GPA, Mr. Dignen helped others as a tutor in the Academic Support Center and worked as a laboratory technician. He was the vice president of the Chesapeake College MGW Nursing Class of 2017.
Mr. Dignen was named to the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges three times. He’s been on the Dean’s List throughout his time at Chesapeake and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society. He also received the 2017 Chesapeake Choice Distinguished Achievement Award and the Outstanding Service Award for nursing graduates. Mr. Dignen was a panelist for the 2017 Student Leadership Conference and organized a campus-wide blood drive this spring.
“Tim is a wonderful choice for the Harrison Award because he gives so much of himself to this community,” said Director of Simulation for Nursing and Allied Health Crystel Farina. “He is joining the caring profession of nursing and has continuously demonstrated care to people in need, demonstrated support to people helping others, demonstrated compassion to children and demonstrated kindheartedness by helping Chesapeake College students meet their goals through tutoring. He continuously gives of himself.”
Mr. Dignen, a Denton resident, has three grown sons and a grandson.