Nursing a passion to serve

By Madeline Swanson

Neal Hautz grew up in rural Boyne City, Michigan. From a young age, he learned the importance of service and community. Whether he was playing sports, cleaning up the parks in his neighborhood, or helping his parents at school fundraisers, Neal always saw a lot of value in working with others toward a common goal.

Neal running with the football during a game
Neal playing football for the Boyne City High School Ramblers.

As captain of the Boyne City High School football team, Neal rallied his teammates in times of both celebration and frustration. Winning or losing, he embraced the responsibility of bringing people together for a cause greater than themselves.

After helping to lead the undefeated Ramblers to the playoffs as a junior, Neal broke his wrist during the game that ultimately ended their winning season, and Neal’s last year on the gridiron with his older brother, a senior on the team at the time. 

As the pain in his wrist intensified, so did his emotions. “At the hospital, I was an emotional mess thinking about my injury, my teammates, and the sacrifices I had made for football,” Neal said.

That’s when the nurses stepped in.

“They played a huge role in calming me down and I was immediately relieved just to have them by my side, doing whatever they could to help me start to recover,” Neal said. “It was incredibly inspiring to experience that, and I wanted to do the same for others.”

Neal with a group of community volunteers hanging a sign that says “it takes a village.”
Neal volunteering in his community.

When it came time to apply to college, Neal had no doubt he wanted to go to the University of Michigan. 

One December night, Neal received an email from U-M admissions just after arriving home from caroling at the local senior center. He was eagerly awaiting an early decision and could feel his heart in his stomach as he opened the message. U-M, after all, had been his “dream school” since the 4th grade.

Neal was accepted to the U-M School of Nursing—one of the nation’s top nursing schools.

“It was a huge moment for me, but it also came with an immediate sense of uncertainty,” he said. “A Michigan education was a major financial commitment for my family and me.” 

After the initial excitement of getting into Michigan, Neal began crunching the numbers—and they weren’t adding up. He applied for financial aid and even considered attending community college, like others in his family, for a nursing degree he could afford.

But it wasn’t long before Neal received more promising news: the School of Nursing (UMSN) had selected him for the prestigious McLelland Memorial Scholarship.

“I remember seeing the letter for the first time; I had to read it multiple times just to fully grasp what was actually happening,” Neal said. “It’s a huge blessing that I want to take advantage of so that someday I can give back and make a similar impact.”

Donor support helped Neal to dive headfirst into his nursing education and immerse himself in organizations on campus. As a first-year student, Neal joined the Health Sciences Scholars Program (HSSP), exploring the wide range of careers and opportunities within the world of health care. Through HSSP, he shadowed an Emergency Room physician at Michigan Medicine, learned about diversity and implicit bias in patient-care, and witnessed the collaborative nature of working in healthcare. He also continued to stay active in athletics by joining the club wrestling squad, and a fitness and weightlifting organization.

Neal posing for a photo with his mother in front of a campus building.
Neal with his mother, Helen Hautz, in front of Couzens Hall.

“With this scholarship, the financial barrier has been removed, and I am thankfully able to focus on my nursing studies,” Neal said. “It gives me confidence that I made the right choice coming to Michigan.”

In just one year at UMSN, Neal has started building on the skills he acquired as a high school athlete to one day join a winning medical team. And with aspirations to become a nurse practitioner after graduation, he is eager to pay forward donors’ investment in him by returning to small communities like Boyne City to practice at rural, underserved hospitals. 

“I have thrived in environments where I worked with a team to win games,” Neal said. “But in the future, I hope to work with a team that saves lives.”

The McLelland Memorial Scholarship was established by Michael (MBA ’79) and Nancy (BS ’75, MBA ’79) McLelland to honor Mike’s mother, Betty McLelland, and Nancy’s sister, Kathleen Green (BSN ’74), for their love and dedication to the nursing profession and to provide an opportunity for others to follow in their footsteps.

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