Erin Templeton, M.S.N. ’13, has spent the past two months putting her life back together after losing her home in the Washington tornado.

Now, thanks to help from her alma mater and a friend, she’s replaced some of the most treasured possessions she lost—her Illinois State University diploma, graduation photos, and transcripts.

Templeton, who works at OSF Healthcare in Peoria, earned her master’s degree in nursing systems administration from Illinois State’s Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN) in May. Fast-forward to November 17, when Templeton was in Iowa visiting her undergraduate college and found out bad weather was headed toward Peoria and Washington. Templeton rushed home to try and beat the storm.

“I was an hour away when the tornado hit,” she said. “I was a half-hour away when I found out my house was gone.”

In all, the storms that raced across Central Illinois on November 17 killed three people and damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 homes in Washington alone, including Templeton’s.

Erin and Jennifer at commencement

Erin Templeton, left, with her friend and fellow 2013 alumna Jennifer Hopwood at Mennonite College of Nursing’s commencement.

No one was injured when her home was flattened, but she lost many of her possessions. She planned to have her Illinois State diploma and photos matted, framed, and hung in her office downstairs. But she hadn’t gotten around to it before the storm hit, so everything was still in her upstairs dining room.

It was all gone, and Templeton wanted it back. That’s in part because of how important education is in the field of nursing, she said. Also, it’s nostalgic—even fun—seeing her diploma on the wall every day. (Her framed undergraduate diploma survived in that downstairs office.)

“It’s a pride thing. I’m very proud of the degrees that I have,” said Templeton, who as a nursing informatics specialist works as a liaison between OSF’s nurses, administration, and IT team.

That’s where her friend and fellow MCN alumna Jennifer Hopwood, M.S.N. ’13, comes in. Hopwood reached out to MCN for help replacing some of her friend’s lost Illinois State belongings.

MCN jumped into action. Melissa Moody, M.S. ’97, the college’s graduate program advisor and transcultural coordinator, reached out to Graduation Services and the Office of the University Registrar for help replacing Templeton’s commencement photos and to get her diploma reissued (free of charge).

By late December, Templeton received her new diploma, photos, and transcripts in the mail.

“I was definitely excited to get everything back,” she said.

MCN’s faculty and staff love being able to keep in touch with their alumni, “but more importantly we want to be there to help them in any way we can after graduation,” Moody told STATEside.

“This was such a tragedy for so many people, and anything that can be done to try and help pull their lives back into one piece is a blessing to be able to do,” Moody said.

Templeton lived with family immediately after the tornado, but she’s now transitioning into a temporary apartment. Plans are well underway to rebuild her home—in exactly the same spot as before.

If the weather cooperates, she’ll be living in her new home—and occasionally staring at her framed Illinois State diploma—by this summer.

Ryan Denham can be reached at