Elaine Morrow Willis ’77 was the first in her family of six to attend college.

She transferred to Mount Mercy as a junior in the education program after earning her associate degree from Kirkwood Community College. With encouragement from Sr. Rosaline Kos, Elaine minored in early childhood education where she found a passion for working with young students.

“Many years later, after I had retired, I sought her out and thanked her wholeheartedly for encouraging me when I needed it,” said Elaine, who was a single mother when she attended Mount Mercy. “She had a great influence on my choices in education.”

When it was time for Elaine’s son-in-law to attend college, Kevin Kosek ’83 first attended another university. After not enjoying his experience and taking some time off, he eventually found his place in Mount Mercy’s business administration and accounting programs. He said Mount Mercy offered “a sense of belonging.”

Alumni Family Story: Kosek-Willis FamilyElaine Morrow Willis ’77 | BS Elementary Education
Kevin Kosek ’83 | BBA Business Administration/Accounting
Anna Kosek ’16 | BSN Nursing
Natalie Kosek ’19 | BSN Nursing

Soon it was time for Kevin’s oldest daughter to attend college. Mount Mercy was the obvious choice for Anna Kosek ’16, due to her family’s history and appreciation for the university.

“My grandma always talked about the wonderful education she received at Mount Mercy,” she said. “She loved having sisters for instructors and, as a single mother, was grateful for the financial assistance so she could obtain her degree.”

Then it was time for Kevin’s youngest daughter to find a school. Following in her sister’s footsteps, Natalie Kosek ’19 joined Mount Mercy’s nursing program.

“Family had a huge impact on where I wanted to go to school; also, Mount Mercy has a really good nursing program,” Natalie said. “I thought it would be fun to go to college for a year with my sister, and I wanted to be close to home because family is really important to me.”

Three generations of the Kosek-Willis family have watched Mount Mercy evolve over 40 years and, like many of Mount Mercy’s alumni families, enjoy reflecting on their experiences.

Alumni Family Story: Kosek-Willis Family“I love talking to my grandma and hearing stories about what Mount Mercy used to look like,” Natalie said. The changing physical landscape is often a subject of conversation between the family. They attend Alumni Reunion Weekend together and enjoy walking around to see what has changed—and what remains the same.

“I tell the family about the steep hill to Warde Hall,” Elaine said. Although still steep today, Elaine recalled, “I had to buy a pair of studded snow tires so I could climb the hill even in snowy and icy weather.”

Natalie said sharing the Mount Mercy experience has helped the family bond. “We have so many similarities and differences that we can talk about. I love the history of Mount Mercy, and I am glad my family is a part of it.”

One value woven through Mount Mercy’s history and important to the Kosek-Willis family is service. Elaine was a teacher, Kevin is in veterans’ affairs, and Anna and Natalie are in nursing.

“One of MMU’s missions is to help anyone who was in need,” Elaine said. “As a teacher, my mission was to help elementary students to read and do basic math, so they could go out in the world and succeed.”

Natalie said she grew up understanding the importance of helping others. “My family has always been involved in volunteering with our church and school system ever since I can remember. I grew up wanting to volunteer, and it was normal to want to help others. The Sisters of Mercy mission has been a part of my life since I was born, and I still make sure service and spirituality are a major part of my life today.”

There’s no doubt Mount Mercy has had a lasting impact on the family. Anna and Natalie hope to continue the Mount Mercy tradition as they look ahead in their careers. Both are considering the university’s graduate nursing programs.

“Mount Mercy has been a large part of our family, providing a wonderful educational experience where the professors and staff genuinely care and have equipped each of us in a career path that we not only enjoy but have been able to excel at,” Kevin said. “Mount Mercy feels like home, and I’ve never gotten that any place else.”