Kent State Student Gets Her Degree and Then, A Brand-New Heart

Kent State alumna tells People magazine and WKYC TV about the gift that gave her a second chance at life

Kent State University alumna Katherine Herrmann (nee Schroeder) was only a newborn when she was diagnosed with a heart defect called Shone’s Complex. During her young life she has gone through more than 20 surgeries and procedures, including four open heart surgeries.

“Growing up, hospitals were all I knew,” Herrmann told People Magazine in an August 2023 article.

Despite a lifetime of health challenges, Katherine was determined to achieve her dreams and in 2018, she enrolled at Kent State University. During her first year at Kent State, Katherine met the man who would eventually become her husband: Ian Hermann. The two students began dating, however during winter break, while Katherine was scheduled for a pacemaker replacement, she learned she had heart failure.

This didn’t faze Ian.

“He was very supportive about something a lot of people would be scared away by,” she told People. “It wasn’t easy. There were tough days.”

Tough days where something Katherine was used to. She didn’t let it stop her when she was told she should drop out of college due to her health. While the future was uncertain, Herrmann told the magazine that she and Ian knew one thing for sure – they wanted a future together.

In 2020, Ian proposed. A few months later she was officially placed on the waiting list for a heart transplant, according to the People article. True to her word, while waiting for her new heart, Katherine earned her bachelor’s degree from Kent State, and graduated in May 2022. In June, she was admitted to Cleveland Clinic to await a new heart.


In July, word came that they had found a donor: Desiree Burge, a West Virginia, mother of two who passed suddenly that month. 

After recovering from surgery and feeling better than she could ever remember feeling, Katherine said she didn’t want to forget the woman who gave her this second chance at life. At her wedding, the now-healthy bride walked down the aisle with a pendant wrapped around her bouquet that read, “Desiree.”

"It's me walking down as a physical, but it's her heart that's actually, you know, walking down that aisle," Katherine told WKYC TV in a recent interview.

Katherine is now a graduate student in the clinical mental health counseling program on the Kent State University Kent campus and working as an emergency dispatcher for Stark County.

Read her full story in People magazine here.

Photo credit: Katherine Herrmann and husband Ian Herrmann at their wedding. Photography by Devin Hill.


POSTED: Thursday, September 14, 2023 04:11 PM
Updated: Friday, September 15, 2023 10:04 AM