A photo from the '90s of nursing instructor Gail Eels engaged in learning exercises with CUW students.

Can you believe it has been four decades since the first nursing class was admitted at Concordia College?!

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the fall 2022 edition of Hearts Together, a Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor special magazine edition.

That was just the beginning of what has become a strong, enduring tradition of Concordia University Wisconsin nursing graduates fulfilling Concordia’s mission to serve Christ in the Church and in the world.

“It started with the Rev. Dr. John Buuck, the school president at the time, who really had a vision,” reflects Dr. Carol Lueders Bolwerk, professor of nursing and director of parish nursing and congregational health ministry. “Based on his background as both a minister and a biologist, he felt that nursing was a calling, a vocation. So when the school bought this campus in Mequon, they hired Dr. Marge Viehl, who was LCMS, to develop a nursing program.”

Ever since, the integration of faith into a nursing education is one thing that distinguishes the CUW program. One way that happens is through a dedicated course on Christian caregiving, which provides a Christ-centered framework to holistic health care. Since 1989, the program has also incorporated parish nursing—now often known as “faith community nursing”—into the curriculum.

This emphasis on faith is also reflected in the importance of annual nursing mission trips. Since 2005, hundreds of nursing students have traveled to places such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Belize, bringing much-needed medical care while spreading the Gospel of Christ.

Today, CUW’s fully accredited nursing programs truly stand out, with state-of-the-art simulation labs, diverse clinical opportunities (Including women’s health in OB/GYN), excellent student-teacher ratios, and a wide variety of degree paths (including BSN to DNP, BSN completion, second degree in nursing-accelerated format, and more) to name just a few.

As the health care industry continues to face a severe nurse shortage, faith-based education and care become ever more important.

“Nurses offer hope and inspiration, things that are needed now more than ever, so we’re going to continue to find new ways to train nurses to care for patients in mind, body, and spirit,” Lueders Bolwerk says. “And, of course, we continue to share the Gospel. Because when all is said and done that’s really the most important thing of all.”

Measures of Christ-centered care

As the CUW School of Nursing celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, here are just a few of the milestone numbers this outstanding program has reached:


First among the Concordia University System to offer a nursing degree


Number of CUW nursing alumni in the field


Most recent NCLEX first-tie pass rate (more than 6 points above the national average)


Number of bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate program tracks available


Years of Doctor of Nursing Practice, the longest-running such program in Wisconsin


Number of annual parish nurse and congregational health ministries conference events held on campus to date

Decades of alumni in the field

Concordia is proud to call more than 3,500 nursing graduates our own. Here are just a few who have spanned the decades of CUW’s nursing history.

Cindy Witte (’90, ’02), DNP, RN, FNP, CNE

Associate professor of nursing at Concordia University Wisconsin

“Whether as a student or faculty member, CUW has been my home for the majority of my professional life. The opportunity to proclaim Christ amid coursework is paramount.”

Sue Hafemann (’92, ’08), RN, FNP, APNP-BC

Family nurse practitioner for Aurora Health Care Wisconsin

“I continue to see the blessings of a CUW education in the students I mentor in practice, and I’m also very proud that my three daughters have pursued their nursing education/careers at CUW!”

Deanna Rusch (’08, ’15), MSN, APNP, SNP-BS

Lead nurse practitioner-neurology for Aurora Advance Good Hope Clinic

“Concordia taught me how to use servant leadership and provide care holistically in the field of neurology.”

Conner Ruosch (’16), MBA, BSN, RN

Emergency department and med/surg unit manager at Edgerton Hospital and Health Services

“I absolutely loved the faculty and staff at Concordia. It was like having 10 extra moms and aunts all cheering me on.”

Want in?

CUW is proud to offer the longest-running Lutheran nursing degree in the nation, as well as the earliest established DNP in the state of Wisconsin. Click on the link below to learn more.

—The fall 2022 Hearts Together magazine hit mailboxes in early October. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, email Jennifer.Hackmann@cuaa.edu.