Colby-Sawyer Nursing Alumnus Honored with State of the Union Invitation

When President Joe Biden addressed a joint session of Congress for his first-ever State of the Union on March 1, 2022, one Colby-Sawyer alumnus was watching as the personal guest of a member of Congress.

Noah Clay ’20, a registered nurse in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, N.H., was selected to attend the President’s address — albeit virtually — as the guest of U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster. Clay, who is currently pursuing his Master of Science in Nursing at Colby-Sawyer, was selected by the four-term Congresswoman in recognition of his service on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. A Keene native, Clay began work in the ICU shortly after graduating in May 2020, and has spent the entirety of his career treating those impacted by the virus.

“Noah and his fellow healthcare workers are the true heroes behind America’s progress (during the COVID-19 pandemic), and I’m proud to uplift their stories,” Kuster said in a statement announcing Clay’s selection as her guest. “It’s impossible to overstate the essential role of our Granite State healthcare workers. Throughout every surge and every variant, they have been on the frontlines putting themselves in harm’s way to save lives and push back against this deadly virus.”

COVID-19 safety protocols prevented Congressional guests from attending the address in person, so Clay said he planned to watch the event on television from his Keene home.

As Kuster’s guest, Clay said he was scheduled to meet one-on-with the state’s senior representative in Congress over Zoom prior to the President’s 9 p.m. address. He said he hoped to reiterate the importance of federal aid to Kuster in combating COVID-19 and remind those in Washington, D.C., that despite the rural nature of the state, New Hampshire was recently among the states hardest hit by the pandemic.

“We kind of have this small-town feel around here and so I think places like New Hampshire weren’t really seen as the hallmark of COVID,” Clay said. “But New Hampshire these last few months had some of the highest positivity rates in the country. I just want to make sure people know we were largely affected. It takes a team to care for COVID patients and it takes resources.”

Clay praised his coworkers in the ICU for providing each other with both the professional and emotional support needed to adapt to the unique circumstance of providing care during a pandemic. Clay also credited his experience at Colby-Sawyer for preparing him for life as a registered nurse.

“I think I felt more prepared than most,” Clay said. “Colby-Sawyer has an absolutely fantastic nursing program and its partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock is phenomenal for its students. Not many of my peers had the opportunity to do clinical at a level one trauma center and so I felt prepared entering this pandemic. My experience at Colby-Sawyer is the reason I chose to come back to pursue my master’s degree.”