2017 Tillman Scholar

Laura Tolver

Marine Corps
Rutgers University
DNP, Adult-Gerontology

“Life experience in any capacity is beneficial. If you learned from a situation consider it tuition.”

Laura’s grandmother attained a Master’s in Nursing at a time when African-Americans couldn’t practice in most areas and her grandfather achieved a bachelor’s in social work then worked as a chef on a train to put himself through medical school. Stories of both their struggles taught Laura the value of education and the hard work is takes to accomplish you goals. Not long after losing her mother, Laura joined the U.S. Marine Corps, seeking direction on financing her education. In time, she earned the respect of her superiors and peers as a Marine. She was named recruit training honor graduate, received meritorious masts, and was awarded Squadron Marine of the Quarter.

One night, sleeping in her barracks room, Laura was attacked. Raped, shamed, and inevitably blamed, her life was forever transformed. Labeled a liar, and made the subject of ridicule among her peers, she was broken. Shortly thereafter, her father suffered an anoxic brain injury and Laura accepted an honorable discharge that she might aid in his care. She went on to complete her first bachelor’s, then another accelerated bachelor’s, both with honors. All the while she suffered in silence. Now, she is using her story to inspire evolution in others, citing her growth and successes as “the harvest of her life’s trials.” As a nurse, Laura uses her practice to encourage others to recognize happiness, peace, and success as choices, not feelings. As she embarks on her journey to becoming a nurse practitioner in Rutgers Doctorate of Nursing program, Laura leans heavily on the principle of Patch Adams: “You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”