When it comes to senior tight end Michael Mardis, there is much more than meets the eye. At 235 pounds and standing 6-feet-3-inches, what you see is Michael’s impressive physical stature of power and strength. But it’s what you don’t see that may be even more impressive. Named to the 2011 Missouri Valley Football Conference All-Academic Team, Mardis is a serious student who has a compassionate side that resonates through his chosen field of study: nursing.
“I chose nursing because it was my calling, I believe, and you’ve got to do what you love and I love helping people,” Mardis said.
After participating in a high school internship about medical careers at Terre Haute South, Mardis determined he wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. It was right here in Terre Haute that he met Mary Card Harbaugh, a nurse. She, her husband Joel and their family, lived just two houses down from him while he was growing up.
“She (Mary) was very interested in my future plans and what I wanted to do,” Michael said. “I would have never known that she was sick by the way she acted or talked to me. She seemed to care more about what I was doing than what was happening in her own life. She was so selfless and such a strong lady. My last memory of her was when I was selling discount football cards. I talked to her about my future plans and she was so proud of me for going into nursing.”
Mary lost her battle with breast cancer on Oct. 26, 2011. Her family established the Mary Card Harbaugh Scholarship for Nursing through the Indiana State University Foundation.
“Mary loved being a nurse,” her husband Joel, ’91, said. “From everything I hear, she was good at the vocation she loved. I know that she was a great nurse in our home. In October 2011, Mary’s cancer was terminal and I knew that. We had already engaged Hospice of the Wabash Valley to keep her comfortable when I ran into a group of Indiana State University nursing students on the oncology floor at Union Hospital. To this point, I hadn’t really given any thought to how I wished to honor and memorialize Mary. When I saw this group of ISU nursing students, which included Michael, it moved me.
“Have you ever been hit square with the answer to a question that had yet to be asked? I have, and the answer was right. Friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances and total strangers contributed over $55,000 to endow the Mary Card Harbaugh Scholarship for Nursing. Mary would be so proud to know that Michael Mardis is the first of many students to receive support in her name.”
“I was shocked but very thankful and honored when I was told about the scholarship,” Mardis said. “I hope that I can honor her by doing well in school and being a great nurse to the community.”
As the first recipient of the scholarship, Mardis will receive $1,000, which he intends to put toward tuition. He said that in the future, he plans on joining the Varsity Club and giving back to the football program. After graduation, he would also love to be able to give back to the Mary Card Harbaugh Scholarship each year.
For more information about the Mary Card Harbaugh Scholarship or to donate to the fund, please contact the ISU Foundation at 812-514-8400.
Tina Dechausay is the director of new media for Sycamore Athletics.