Published June 2023

The ACEN is honored to announce Marilyn Smidt, MSN, RN, as the recipient of the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award! The ACEN Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes individuals for their service in nursing education, practice, and/or accreditation.

This prestigious award honors an extraordinary individual who has made indelible contributions to nursing education, nursing practice, and/or accreditation over a sustained period of time. This year’s award will be presented during the ACEN 2023 Nursing Education Accreditation Conference.

Please join us in congratulating Marilyn on this extraordinary accomplishment!

Marilyn Smidt, MSN, RN


Like so many other girls coming of age in the late 1960’s Marilyn was familiar with mainly two career choices–teacher or nurse. Since she was sure she did not want to be a teacher, had good grades in math and science, and had several aunts and cousins who were nurses, Marilyn chose nursing. At that time, nursing education in west Michigan was offered only at hospital-based schools. She wrote to one of these, Bronson Hospital School of Nursing in Kalamazoo, and the director surprisingly told her that the future of nursing was in baccalaureate education and advised her to apply to one of the three state universities that offered nursing degrees at that time.

When Marilyn graduated from Michigan State University in 1969, she was among a minority of nurses who held a degree in nursing. Following graduation, Marilyn served as a US Army nurse for three years, and after her active service, she used the GI Bill to earn an MSN through Wayne State University. One of the nursing faculty at Wayne, Dr. Dorothy Reilly, had implemented an outreach program that was offered in various Michigan cities, including Grand Rapids where Marilyn lived. The students in that program appreciated the opportunity to earn their MSN while living at home and continuing to be employed in nursing. Marilyn had a wonderful experience studying under Dr. Reilly and so many other leading nursing scholars. It was Dr. Reilly’s curriculum course and publications that became so important in shaping effective curricula in many Michigan schools of nursing.

Once again, Marilyn found that she was among a minority of nurses who held graduate degrees. Because of this, she was recruited by schools of nursing and found to her surprise that she enjoyed teaching nursing. An academic lifestyle fit well with raising a family and both of her children have become academics themselves, although they are professors of history and political science.

Because of various opportunities, Marilyn enjoyed teaching in several states and in many levels of nursing–practical, associate, and baccalaureate. She found that she preferred the community college setting and was fortunate to teach in, and be the director of, the associate and practical nursing programs at Grand Rapids Community College for 23 years.

During her time at GRCC, Marilyn became better acquainted with nursing accreditation and greatly enjoyed serving at all levels in what is now the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing–ACEN. She considers herself very fortunate to have known so many dynamic and gifted leaders in nursing education and is very proud to have been associated with an organization that has remained strongly committed to all levels of nursing education. Marilyn was honored to participate in the process of setting the standards and criteria for educational quality and considers the progress made in each set of standards and criteria, including those for Transition to Practice Programs, to be among her most important professional achievements.

ACEN Nursing Education Accreditation Timeline

1985-2008Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) Nursing Faculty
1986First nursing accreditation site visit as a faculty member
1990Appointed Nursing Programs Director, GRCC
1994NLNAC Site Visit, GRCC
Volunteered for NLN Bylaws Committee
1994-presentNLNAC/ACEN Program Evaluator
Fall 1994 – First site visit: Hannah Mullins School of Practical Nursing, Salem, OH
1999Evaluation Review Committee
2000Editorial Review Committee
2001Accreditation Task Force member – 2002 Standards & Criteria (S&C)
2002-2008NLNAC Commissioner
2005S&C Committee, Chair
2008S&C Committee, Chair
2013S&C Committee, Chair
2017S&C Committee, Chair
2018Transition to Practice Task Force, Chair
2023S&C Committee, Chair