Alumni Spotlights

Lori (Kurdziel) Soos, '89: Following Her Path

June 19, 2012 by Lisa M. McMahon, '09

Lori Soos, '89, believes that sometimes paths are chosen for you in life, and that you can either embrace the path you're on or you can choose not to. She chose the former, and that decision has led her on a journey of personal and professional success that took her from her hometown of Alden, N.Y., to Niagara University, across the country and overseas, and finally, back to NU.

The first step on her path came at the suggestion of her father.

“When I went to school, most women were either an airline stewardess, a teacher or a nurse,” she says. “And my dad said he thought I'd be good at nursing. I had volunteered at Veteran's Hospital and I was a candy striper, so it seemed like it would be an appropriate step for me.”

While at Niagara, Lori participated in the university's ROTC program during her first two years. In her sophomore year, she met a fellow cadet, Patrick Soos, '87, a senior from North Tonawanda, N.Y., whom she would marry shortly after her gradation from NU.

Lori's introduction to military life came abruptly. Patrick, who was stationed at Fort Ord, Calif., returned to Western New York a week before their wedding. A few days later, he learned he was being deployed to Panama with Operation Nimrod Dancer. The couple had their wedding, but canceled their honeymoon so that they could return to California in time for Patrick to leave with his mission. Lori was left alone to set up their home.

“Pat called me at work and gave me my new house address,” she recalls. “I went there, opened the door, and looked around. All my stuff was in the house, but the only thing that had been set up was the bed. So that was my welcome to the Army.”

As is her nature, Lori embraced this new path and her life in California. While waiting for Patrick to return, she worked the 3-11 shift in a cardiac step-down unit at Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula, a job that was similar to the preceptorship she had completed on the cardio thoracic floor at Buffalo General Hospital.

During the years that followed, Lori's ability to be adjustable, adaptable, and flexible ”“”“ skills she learned while in NU's ROTC program and as a military wife -- served her well. She and Patrick moved 11 times in 17 years and began raising their family of four boys. She was always able to find work, and served in a variety of intensive care and cardiac units at hospitals from the West Coast to the East Coast, the Midwest to Germany. She briefly left the clinical side of things while at Fort Eustis, Va., where she was assistant director of the Sentera Healthcare medical clinic. In Seattle, she broadened her experience even further by working in the emergency room and obtaining her certification in pediatric advance life support.

“I thought this would be fun ”“”“ a new change and a new path,” says Lori. “I think that's why nursing is always so interesting; you can always change where you're going, so you're never stagnant as a professional.”

Lori's path back to Western New York and Niagara University began at about that same time. Her mother was battling breast cancer, so Patrick requested, and was granted, a compassionate reassignment that relocated the family to Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. While there, Patrick discovered that Niagara University was looking for a professor of military science and called the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., Niagara's president, to discuss the opportunity. Unfortunately, Patrick was committed to three years in his current assignment, but when that commitment ended, Father Levesque brought him to Niagara, where Patrick served as chair of the university's ROTC program until 2008. That same year, the university's Health Services Office was in need of a director. Lori applied and was hired.

“My mother, unfortunately, passed away before we moved back,” Lori says. “But I find it ironic that we were both brought back to Niagara University. If you had asked me over 20 years ago, when I graduated in '89, would I be back to work and to serve our students at Niagara, to continue the Vincentian values and mission that I was given and learned, I would have said no. Coming back to Niagara was never on my radar, especially as an employee. But eventually I was provided the opportunity to come back to Health Services.”

Being an employee has given Lori a different perspective of the university and its mission.

“We talk about Vincentian values, about our mission, about giving back,” she says. “I think those are embedded in us and we're taught how to do that while we're here, but we really don't understand how it's going to affect us later in life. But without a doubt, those values and traditions that were given to me as a student here have helped me not just shape my career, but shaped the way I raised my family.”

Those values have played a prominent role in the Soos family's lives. The four boys volunteer in their community, and two of them joined Lori on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic last January. Lori has held leadership positions with organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and her sons' school's PTA and PTSA, and, as a member of the Officer Wives Club, she has assisted servicemen and women and their families. She also volunteers within her church and is a member of several regional and national professional nursing associations.

At Niagara, Lori has implemented a number of changes and improvements that have earned her recognition by both the American College Health Association (2012 Affiliate New Professionals Award) and the New York State College Health Association (2009 Susan Shearer Award).

She's also completed a master's degree in health care administration and nursing leadership through Niagara's MA in Interdisciplinary Studies program, and hopes to someday complete her Ph.D. She and Patrick have also discussed volunteering with FEMA after retiring so that they could use their specialized talents to assist disaster relief efforts.

But for now, Lori is content on her path.

“I'm happy where I am in my career,” she says. “It will advance as time does. I'm doing what I've done every single day of my life, but now I can help the students because we keep them at their optimal wellness in order to stay healthy, to function, to have them be successful academically and personally. I definitely think this is the time in my life and my career where I can say this is a good place for me.”