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Gabby Turner headshot

Lindsey Fairbanks barely uttered a word when the tears started rolling down her face.

“I hope Gabby told you I was going to cry,” said Fairbanks, whose daughter, Gabby Turner ’24 (Beavercreek, Ohio) will become the first in her family to graduate from college when she earns a Bachelor of Science in Health Science during Marietta College’s Commencement on Saturday, May 4.

“We are just so proud of her. She is such an amazing young lady.”

Gabby’s academic journey has been incredible and will continue in June when she enrolls in Marietta’s Physician Assistant Studies Graduate Program.

“I am so excited,” Gabby said. “It’s been my dream to go to Marietta since I learned about the PA Program. As soon as I got in, I declined my interviews at other schools. I have felt so at home as an undergrad at Marietta that I knew I’d feel the same about the PA Program.”

Initially, Gabby expected to enroll in a graduate program in physical therapy. She changed her mind after participating in a program where the College partners with Memorial Health System.

“I got to see how everyone interacted to help the patients, and I just knew I wanted to be a part of that,” she said. “I was also concerned that doing PT would become too repetitive. That won’t happen as a PA.”

Gabby didn’t have too many dull moments as an undergrad. She was active in her sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, volunteered with MedLife, and is also a McDonough Scholar.

Her mother is thankful Gabby flourished at Marietta.

“I don’t think she would have had the experiences she had at another college,” Fairbanks said. “I know Gabby has done so many other activities, but I can’t list them all. She has done so many things. She’s done more than just her grades and her studies. That is because of Marietta.”

Marietta was the only college Gabby visited. The decision to enroll was an easy one.

“I just loved the community aspect and the small class size,” she said. “My tour guide was saying ‘Hi’ to everyone we passed. When we got in the car to head home, my mom looked at me and said, ‘You’re going here, aren’t you?’ One person knowing so many people made me feel safe.”

Dr. Alexandra Perry, Dean of the McDonough Center for Leadership & Business, has gotten to know Gabby as a student, a teacher’s assistant, and as the student body vice president and president. Perry also watched Gabby thrive as an EXCEL leader during McDonough’s orientation program the past three falls.

“As the faculty advisor to SGA, I was struck by how much Gabby cared about the positive difference she could make on our campus as a student,” Perry said. “I have learned so much from watching her navigate significant challenges in pursuit of her degree, and have been so impressed with how she has remained focused on her goals and her commitment to being a student leader.”

Gabby also had to put in a lot of extra work just to be able to go to college. Somehow, she managed to play high school volleyball and work 45 hours a week to save the money she would need for tuition and other expenses.

“I worked at Dick’s Sporting Goods and I would also babysit on the side,” Gabby said. “I was super motivated. I was doing it for myself, but I was also working to achieve the dream I’ve always wanted.”

During her sophomore year at Marietta, her dream hit a bump.

“I was in my Physiology class and I got a call from my dad. He was so nonchalant about it, but he said we wouldn’t be able to go on our cruise that summer because he was in kidney failure.”

A frightened Gabby was tested to see if she was a match. At 19, she donated a kidney to save Brian Turner’s life on June 14, 2022.

“I was scared. I’m still scared because I don’t know what’s going to happen to me in the future, but I know it was the right thing to do,” Gabby said. “What really put me at ease was the women in my sorority, all my professors, and Kim Gandee (a nurse in the Center for Health & Wellness) supported me. They made me feel comfortable and confident.”

Gabby believes forming strong bonds with faculty, staff, and classmates is what makes Marietta special, and why she’s enjoyed so much success as a Pioneer.

“I remember being so scared to talk to my professors during my freshman year,” she said. “Once I learned they are here to help you succeed is when everything came together for me. I remember having a bad day and I told Dr. (Lynn) Bostrom. She told me to go back to my room and relax. She is a demanding professor and her classes are challenging. However, at that moment, I realized she cared as much about me the person as she did about me being in her class.”

Bostrom, Assistant Professor of Biology, first encountered Gabby in her PIO 101 class.

“She’s been very focused on pursuing her goal of becoming a PA even before she came on campus, and she’s done everything she could to prepare herself for that challenge,” Bostrom said. “One of my favorite things about Gabby is her attitude — she’s always enthusiastic, always ready to tackle something new.  I’ve been very impressed by how she has spearheaded efforts to support student mental health during her time here; I hope that some of these initiatives will continue to help MC students long after graduating.”

Dr. Perry also recalls learning when Gabby was accepted into Marietta’s PA Program.

“I was traveling with a few other faculty and staff members from the McDonough Center at a conference. A few of us teared up at the news because we knew exactly what this meant for Gabby. She had accomplished the goal she worked so hard for. It had an impact on all of us, and we are so excited to have her remain on campus for her graduate studies,” Perry said.

Perry added, “There is no doubt that Gabby’s contributions to our world will be significant. In fact, I would argue that the impact that she has on our campus highlights the contributions that she is already making. Gabby has excelled despite adversity and works harder than most students I know.”

Gabby is proud to be a member of The Long Blue Line.

“I’m proud that I was able to break the stigma. You see that your parents didn’t go to college and you know it will be tough,” she said. “My family has always been super encouraging and the support has been phenomenal. But it’s not always easy to talk to them about my challenges because they didn’t always understand. But I know my mother and I will both cry at graduation.”