It’s not often that a lecture begins with a standing ovation, but that’s what happened as Stephen Strobbe took the stage at Rackham Auditorium on Tuesday for the 25th Annual Golden Apple lecture.

Strobbe, a clinical associate professor at the School of Nursing and Department of Psychiatry, began his talk, “Lessons from an Imperfect Life: A Premature Last Lecture,” by sharing why he transitioned from a clinical career in psychiatric nursing to education.

“You see maybe 8-12 patients a day in practice, but in some classes, there are 65 of you,” he told the students in the crowd. “And each of you will reach thousands and thousands of patients and their families. In psychiatric nursing, you are the instrument of healing. You can’t hide behind technology.”

The crowd of about 600 people contained current and former students, faculty, friends and previous Golden Apple Recipients.

Stephen Strobbe acknowledges the audience at his Golden Apple Award lecture Tuesday. (Photo by Lon Horwedal, Michigan Photography)

The Golden Apple Award and Lecture is the only student-selected teaching award at U-M. It honors teachers who inspire students. Winners are invited to give their “Ideal Last Lecture” about a topic of their choosing.

Strobbe has made a point not to hide his own past. He has openly shared his personal struggles with addiction with his students in class, and did so again during his Golden Apple lecture.

Stephen Strobbe’s 12 Life Lessons

1. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own happiness.

2. You can’t accomplish much of anything by yourself.

3. Everything doesn’t happen for a reason.

4. Sometimes it’s wonderful to be wrong.

5. You can learn something from almost anyone.

6. You don’t need to learn all of life’s lessons the hard way, just the important ones.

7. Say yes to more than you think you can do.

8. Ask for what you need.

9. Surround yourself with people who want you to succeed.

10. Let yourself be adopted by a dog.

11. Seek good counsel, and then use it.

12. When the time comes, you will be enough.

From his “wayward” days to his many accomplishments, including 28 years of continuous sobriety and serving as the first clinical director of the university’s Addiction Treatment Services, Strobbe says he’s learned a lot of lessons along the way, and shared 12 of them with the audience.

Each lesson was mixed with a personal story, a touching reflection, or one of the witty, one-line quips Strobbe is known for.

 “Stephen has said about his teaching, ‘This is what I was meant to do,'” said Bonnie M. Hagerty, associate dean of undergraduate studies at the School of Nursing. “His lecture modeled what his students experience: participatory learning, passion, humor, honesty, and compassion.

“Stephen is able to work with people at their lowest point, and believe that they can function and rebuild their lives. His many achievements reflect his quest for excellence, and his ability to create new structures and processes to promote his teaching and clinical practice. The School of Nursing is fortunate to count Stephen as one of our own.”

Strobbe asked the crowd if anyone was a romantic. A few tentative hands went up.

“Come on,” he exclaimed. “I teach classes full of female students. I know there are more of you.”

More hands went up and Strobbe laughed. Then he read “Black Raspberry Jam,” a poem he had written for his wife, Lynn. The emotional tone and delivery brought many to tears.

The Golden Apple committee revealed that it received more than 750 nominations and a record 75 of them were for Strobbe. He said he was moved reading the students’ comments about his compassion, honesty and ability to inspire courage.

He shared one more lesson, “If these qualities are important to you as a student, they will also be important to your patients.”

Watch Stephen Strobbe’s Golden Apple Award lecture.
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