Hanson-Trachta-Whitters Family

Long before he became an alum, Andrew Whitters ’04 remembers hearing stories from his aunts, uncle, and grandmother about their time spent at Mount Mercy. 

Marie (Hansen) Trachta ’63, Whitters’ grandmother, was the first student over the age of 25 to attend Mount Mercy. After her husband returned from World War II, they started a family. “The day she found out she was pregnant with her third child was the day my grandfather passed away in an industrial accident,” says Whitters. “As my family gathered around her for support, she was inspired to go back to school to become a teacher.”

At Mount Mercy, Trachta studied history and education, becoming an educator at Regis High School in Cedar Rapids, where she carried out a nearly 40-year career. “She was always close to Mount Mercy, both personally and professionally,” says Whitters.

As the oldest of seven sisters, Trachta served as inspiration to many of her siblings (four of the six whom also attended Mount Mercy): Marjorie (Hansen) Fraenkel ’52 RN, Rosemary (Hansen) Soukup ’56 JC, and Karen (Hansen) Town ’64 and Susan (Hansen) Maybanks ’64, both English majors.

Marie Trachta and her four sisters

Marie Trachta and her four sisters at the MMU admissions office when Sue was signing up for classes.

Left to right: Rosemary Hansen Soukup, Marie Hansen Trachta, Karen Hansen Town, Marjorie Hansen Fraenkel, and Sue Hansen Maybanks.  

“My aunts and grandmother used to talk about how, back in the 1950s and 1960s, it was important to wear skirts that were below the knees and carry books in front of you. Carrying books on your back was disrespectful to your books,” Whitters remembers them saying.

“My aunt Marjorie was always ahead of her time,” he says. “Back then, nurses were expected to give up their chairs to prescriptive providers, like doctors. Bmarut her Mount Mercy education empowered her to stand up to the ‘norms’ at the time.”

Whitters’ uncle, Robert Trachta ’88, also attended Mount Mercy, majoring in psychology. Cousin Alicia Gibson Rivera ’03 did as well, studying nursing.

“The only time my family didn’t have someone attending Mount Mercy was in the 1970s,” says Whitters. “We all have an affinity for the university, and we show itwhether it be in the form of donations, volunteering, or supporting today’s college students.”

Even with this long family history, however, Whitters didn’t initially plan to attend Mount Mercy. “I wanted to go somewhere different, so I started at the University of Iowa. At that time, students registered for classes based on their last name. I was never able to sign up for the classes I wanted,” he says. Instead, to get the necessary credits, he attended a local community college. 

Once he earned his associate’s degree, he was ready to be more than just a number, so he transferred to Mount Mercy. “Here, everyone has a name. People knew me, and people were friendly. It was a great and formative experience, and showed me the kind of person I wanted to be after college.”

Just like the rest of his family, Whitters now has Mount Mercy tales of his own to pass down to future generations. One story high on his list involves his Hodgkin’s disease diagnosis in 2004. During treatment, he was placed on a high-calorie diet, including vitamin drink mixes and fortified protein powders.

His roommates and then-girlfriend (now wife), Jennifer (Smith) Whitters ’02, decided to combine the drink mixes with ice cream, candy bars, and other treats to create something delicious. “Finally, when it came time to drink it, I couldn’t choke it down. It was about 6,000 calories. So this ice cream concoction was eaten by all of my roommates, as well as my wife and her friends. It was a clinical calorie food for cancer patients, but they all ate it. Everybody was in that struggle with me.”

Whitters Family

“We all have an affinity for the university, and we show it—whether it be in the form of donations, volunteering, or supporting today’s college students.”

Andrew Whitters ’04
Major: Nursing
Doctor of Nursing Practice
Mercy Medical Center
Cedar Rapids, IA

With the support of family and friends, Whitters has been in remission since 2005. He remembers teachers reaching out to him personally throughout his time at Mount Mercy. “They’d see me on campus, put their arm around me in the cafeteria, and leave messages for me. I didn’t want to quit college because of a disease, and people were literally there for me.” He credits the late Frank Jaszcz and Mary Tarbox as two faculty members who truly made a difference.

Today, Whitters is a nurse – following in the footsteps of a few of his aunts and his cousin – and has earned his DNP, hoping to inspire other young nurses to pursue graduate-level nursing programs. He is the founder of Whitters Health, a startup company that develops medical devices for patients with chronic respiratory conditions, and cofounded a professional nurse and student advocacy podcast called “Friends of Flo.”

Whitters also serves Mount Mercy as an adjunct professor, and practices in Mercy Medical Center’s Department of Geriatrics. He’s excited to help Mount Mercy form relationships with local hospitals and become a nursing-program leader in not only Cedar Rapids, but in all of eastern Iowa.

With so many Mustang alumni already in his family, he still looks forward to the possibility of growing that number: “I have two sons, and would be very proud if they chose Mount Mercy someday, too!”