Kathryn Wolff Nelson
Kathryn “Katie” Wolff was born in the Moravian community of Bethania, North Carolina in 1924 to A.D. “Punk” and Eula Wolff. She attended Salem College and was Founders Medalist of her Vanderbilt Nursing class in 1946, graduating at the top of her class. She later went on to earn a Masters Degree at Vanderbilt Nursing School in 1963 and a PhD in International Education and Social Anthropology from Peabody College in 1968. While in nursing school she met Henry S. Nelson of Nashville, Tennessee and they married in January 1945. They served 41 years as career medical missionaries with the Presbyterian (PCUSA) Mission Board in China, Cameroon, Malawi and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Katie was a lifelong learner and educator, teaching nursing on three continents and in four languages with students from nursing aides to graduate students. She was the last missionary director of the IMCK nursing school in Congo. Her students today are directors of at least three nursing schools in Congo and one in Beijing. She was a lover of diverse cultures and taught anthropology and sociology at Maryville College in the 1970’s and graduate nursing at University of Tennessee in Knoxville the 1980’s.
Katie loved the people of the Congo and the IMCK. She was passionate about training her Congolese students not only to give excellent care for their patients, but also to be prepared to train the next generation of health care workers. One of the things she was most proud of in her career was passing the torch to competent Congolese nurses to carry on the work of medical education long after she was gone. When she returned for the 50th anniversary celebration for IMCK in 2004, she was gratified to find her former students carrying on the good work of Christian medical training at IMCK.
In Katie’s retirement, she could often be found hiking. She completed the Appalachian Trail at age 74, the Mountains to the Sea Trail in her home state of NC at age 76, and the Pinhoti Trail in Georgia and Alabama. She was a member of the 900 Miler Club, completing all the trails in the Smokey Mountain National Park. In Africa, she hiked the three tallest mountains: Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, and Ruwenzori Mountains.
Katie passed away on March 24, 2018 at her home in Maryville, Tennessee. In recognition of her career and the Christian service she provided to so many people in various lands, the Nelson family and several friends have committed to match donations to the IMCK Endowment Fund. This important fund will help stabilize the operating income for the Institut Medical Chretien du Kasai (IMCK) and assist in providing quality health care education and patient care in the Kasai regions of central Democratic Republic of Congo.
Please join us in commemorating Katie’s life and supporting the good work of IMCK.