News Release

Published on Monday, April 23, 2012

Physician Assistant Norine Friell strongly believed in education and pointed to her own life as an example. Describing herself as a “bootstrapper,” she joined the Air Force and trained as a medic. At the age of 30 with a child, she went back to school to become a Physician Assistant, a profession in which she excelled as a practitioner, teacher, and leader. She continued to be involved and make a difference in people’s lives up until her death in April, 2011 at the age of 49.

To honor her life, work and advocacy, two of Friell’s colleagues, Nancy Heerens-Knudson and Ralph Knudson, MD, have created a scholarship fund at Western Technical College that will help people obtain their GEDs, a fundamental educational building block.

The Knudsons were inspired by Friell’s dedication to her profession and her patients.

“As a PA colleague working with Norine at the Tomah Gundersen Lutheran Clinic for four years, I saw her competence, caring and compassion first hand,” said Heerens-Knudson. “She cared deeply about her patients and was a passionate advocate for them. She strongly encouraged her patients to get an education to help them improve their lives.”

Friell was frustrated by the poverty of many of her patients and worked as a volunteer at St. Clare Mission in Sparta to bring healthcare to people without insurance. She also participated in a medical mission to Haiti.

Friell served as president of the Wisconsin Association of Physician Assistants in 2010 advocating education of patients and practitioners to the dangers of childhood obesity.

“We were blessed by her presence and we want to pass that feeling along to others in her honor,” said Heerens-Knudson.

Contributions to the Norine Friell Scholarship Fund can be made online at, or by mail at: Western Technical College Foundation, 400 7th Street N., La Crosse, WI 54601.