Award Winning Alumni

Award Winning Alumni

Lindsey Gendke

Every day, Southwestern Adventist University alumni are impacting communities around the world. Below are stories of two women, Emily Laughlin (class of 2014) and Destiny Silva (Cooper) (class of 2010), who chose very different careers, but over this past summer, displayed their common roots when they won awards for going beyond the call of duty in their workplaces and communities.


Laughlin, a nurse, was awarded the DAISY award for providing exceptional patient care, while Silva, a marketing specialist, was awarded member of the year by the Society for Marketing Professional Services(SMPS) Fort Worth chapter, after serving as the Education Director for that organization from 2018-2019.


A staff nurse for Huguley Hospital’s Progressive Care Unit (PCU), Laughlin says she was just doing her job when she prayed and kept vigil by a dying man’s bedside for 10 hours--sitting in for the family, all of whom could not be there.


“One of the biggest things I’ve been taught in my current position,” Laughlin said, “is you want to make sure there’s always someone there with a patient…if there are any last words or comfort you can give them.” Laughlin’s contribution in the case of her DAISY award was just that: being present, and imparting hope, in the quiet moments before a patient’s death.


Laughlin says she could tell the patient was faith-oriented, even though he could not express it. “He was very sweet and positive. I was with him for ten hours out of my twelve-hour shift. During the last hour to two hours he went into a lethargic state or coma, but we know that patients in a coma can still hear. So I took the Bible near his bedside and opened it. I don’t remember what chapter of the Bible I turned to--it was in the New Testament--I just know that what I read was fitting to what was going on with this patient. 


“There was a relaxed feature on his face. When I sat down with him, I had that innate sense--I knew he was very close to passing. I was reading to him and holding his hand. You know the peace that passes all understanding, I knew he was okay. I said a prayer, and about 20 minutes after that…he didn’t make any sound, but you could just tell he was okay. His last words were: ‘I’m okay.’”


It is moments like these where Laughlin is thankful for Southwestern Adventist University’s focus on faith and service. “Open prayer and open sharing of the gospel is one of the best things at Southwestern Adventist University, both in the nursing program and in the school at large,” Laughlin says, adding that it was largely because of her Christian Witnessing class that made it her mission to pray with patients.


For her part, Silva has made it her mission to share knowledge. Specifically, she desires to educate others, including current students at Southwestern Adventist University, about the lesser-known opportunities for marketing professionals across the United States. 


Regarding her own position, Silva clarifies that she works for a “niche market,” what industry professionals refer to as the A/E/C industry (Architectural/Engineering/Construction). She explains, “Someone with my skill set provides branding, business development, RFQ/RFP proposal preparation, and photography needs for firms that offer architectural, engineering or construction services. Think of all the construction going on around DFW. A lot of people aren’t aware that marketing jobs for those professional services exist. Most who enter this field stumbled into it, and that’s what happened to me.”


As Education Director for SMPS Fort Worth, one of Silva’s goals was to plan educational events that inspire and empower SMPS members. But Silva didn’t stop there. A current member of Southwestern Adventist University’s Business Advisory Board, Silva partnered with the University last spring to plan an educational lunch, during which she talked to business students about marketing overall and her niche more specifically. 


In the future, she hopes to continue to give back to the school that first started her on her unexpected path. As Silva shares, “My time at Southwestern Adventist University gave me the opportunity to develop leadership skills and work in a team setting. I was given the opportunity to represent the December 2010 graduating class by giving a speech at the graduation, and I really enjoyed that. The ability to comfortably and clearly convey a message to a large crowd of people has really, really helped give me the confidence I need to continue to grow my marketing career.”


The experiences of Laughlin and Silva represent just a handful of Southwestern alumni’s many accomplishments, but perhaps Laughlin’s words best sum up the purpose of education at Southwestern Adventist University: “I get touched all the time by different patients and people I work with. It’s not getting the award that’s the highlight; it’s being able to have those unforgettable experiences with people. The ability to help them, the opportunity to pray with them. It’s truly remarkable to be part of someone’s life like that.”


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