Lenore Zamis Lanka, RN, began wondering last year if there would be a 50th reunion for her and the rest of the 1959 University of Illinois at Chicago nursing graduates.
When the school agreed to help her plan the reunion, Lanka, living near Albany, N.Y., decided to try rounding up her classmates, now spread throughout the country. It was one of the best decisions of her life.
On Sept. 11 last year, Lanka, along with seven others from the 18-member Class of 59 300 fewer grads than the 2009 class and others associated with the class converged upon the UIC campus for a day of sharing memories, swapping life stories, and seeing the changes 50 years had brought to the campus and the surrounding area.
The reunion was the first for the Class of 59, which made it all the more special. Alumna traveled from Maine, New York, California, Missouri, and Illinois to attend, and the afternoon included a visit to Chicagos Millennium Park, which most of the graduates had not seen.
The best part for me was that so many of the girls made an effort to come, Lanka says. It was just old-home week. It was just so friendly. The College of Nursing did a marvelous job giving us a lovely little luncheon and a tour.Ellen Riggle Naney looks over some old instruments during a tour of the UIC College of Nursing.
Among those at the reunion was Marguerite Dixon, RN, PhD, MS, BSN, whose ties to UIC run deep. Not only did she teach at the school, but the Marguerite Dixon Scholarship, which assists black students in the School of Nursings doctoral program, was founded in 2005 as part of her 75th birthday celebration.
Dixon is retired but remains a member of the Adventist Health System and Adventist Midwest Health Systems boards. She vividly remembers what life was like for her as a UIC student in the late 1950s when she was locked into the College of Dentistry, where she worked while attending classes, on weekends to conduct experiments on a bunch of uncooperative birds.
I was a pigeon gynecologist, she says with a laugh. I had to see when their eggs were ready to hatch. I had to go in and examine them, and the pigeons were very angry with me.
Dixon, originally from Pittsburgh, made her home in Chicago from 1952 to 1999 and now lives in Plainfield, Ill. She has seen many changes at and around the school, which did not even have a College of Nursing building when she was a student. She says several ladies at the reunion asked about one of their favorite hangouts, a restaurant called The Greeks, which Dixon says closed many years ago.
Others at the reunion from the Class of 59 were Gloria Ribnek Barmada, Ann Huth Frolich and her daughter, Amy Marchesseault, Ellen Riggle Naney, Dee Read Quinn, Rochelle Koberlein Sokol, and Joan Newberry Turner. They were joined by Judy Ohlson Ryan, originally a nursing student who switched majors, and former faculty member Aline Young.
Dixon says seeing so many vibrant faces from her past makes her wish she had stayed in touch with her classmates.
It was such a wonderful experience, she says. I regretted I hadnt kept in closer contact with the class, but well most certainly be doing that. It was an enriching experience.
Tom Clegg is a member of the editorial team at Nursing Spectrum.