How ironic to walk into St. Florian Hall on Aug. 18 for the 100-year celebration of the former Ohio Valley Hospital School of Nursing now Trinity Health System School of Nursing and see right off the bat Nancy "Suzie" Kincaid Rousey, a graduate of the Class of 1959.
Suzie was working the registration table along with Sara Thomas Mains, Chalisa Cook and Becky Salvino when I arrived with my daughter, Sarah, a 2009 graduate of the school. I introduced the two not only because they were among the 270 alumni and guests in attendance, but also because Suzie was working maternity when I had Sarah 23 years ago tomorrow.
Since its founding in 1912, more than 2,000 nurses have graduated from the former OVH School of Nursing now THS School of Nursing, its first class of three nurses produced in 1915.
Class of 1962, from left, Shirley McClung Costlow, Mary Ann Cola Martin, Patty Stephenson Milosevich, Karen Skunda Weintraub, Isabelle Fages Johns and Linda Bowen Sutherin
Its centennial milestone was cause for the reunion to be organized by the OVH/Trinity School of Nursing Alumni Association led by its president, Blanche Williams, Class of 1958. The association organized four years ago to support the school and offer scholarships and meets twice a year for a time of food and fellowship on the third Wednesday of April and October at Starkdale Presbyterian Church.
In welcoming remarks, Williams expressed delight with the turnout and said, "This evening is all about nurses." She singled out a few of them right from the get-go, including 95-year-old Mary Yocum of Steubenville, a mentor to her many students who was head nurse on men's surgical and the health nurse at the school; Betty Burman, Class of 1947, who traveled from Arizona; and Mary Ellen McClain Reed, a nursing instructor in the late 1940s and early '50s who traveled from Cleveland.
Gloria Kotur, a graduate of the 1940s, who was sitting at my table, was singled out twice - first by Williams for donating her cadet uniform that is part of a school memorabilia cabinet display the association spearheaded in the lobby at Trinity Medical Center East that Williams encouraged everyone to check out, and later by Martha Jane Allen Brondos, Class of 1952.
Brondos was one of three presenters to give a perspective on being a student nurse at a specific period in the school's history and immediately cited Kotur as her inspiration for becoming a nurse, this after Brondos had been her patient.
"Getting my cap was the greatest day of my life," Brondos said, recalling student nurses working through the major snowstorm of 1950 that crippled the area and a serious bus accident with 44 patients admitted. She also recalled how she and nurse Hilda Benton were part of a medical team when the tonsils of children at the old McCullough Children's Home were removed. She said they cleaned the instruments in the bathroom using alcohol, and "everything turned out fine."
Norma Ryan, who started in 1960 and would later finish in 1978, gave a perspective on nursing students of the 1960s and '70s from uniform changes; being in their dorms by a 9 p.m. sharp curfew; learning in skills lab to put sheets on a bed you could bounce a quarter off of; singing in the school chorus; the school allowing students to be married; and capping ceremonies at Covenant church.
Melissa Hassan, a 1982 graduate, served as an instructor for 27 years before becoming the school's director. The school is a commuter school now, its dorm closing in 2007. Technology has changed, caps are no longer part of the uniform, and today's student balances family, work and school. The school is one of two hospital-based diploma schools of nursing left in Ohio.
The cost of the 24-month program is $18,860, not counting books and uniforms.
On Aug. 20, the school brought in what Hassan said was one of the largest classes in her 27 years at the school with 64 new students beginning their nursing education journey.
The tradition continues.
Some other evening highlights:
Willams singled out members of the Class of 1962, who were marking their 50-year anniversary in the midst of the 100-year celebration. There were three tables of alumni from this class.
Williams thanked Judy Owings and Patty Dennis for their help in organizing the celebration, which didn't go unappreciated. Bouquets of flowers were presented to Williams and Owings by Carmel Esposito.
A special commemorative program was made available with a through-the-decades timeline and a list of nursing school rules in place in 1955, including "do not chew gum in uniform" and "do wear a hair net if your hair touches your collar or is too fluffy." Each contained a video of old pictures, a project of Indian Creek communication class students.
Eric Minor of WTOV9 served as master of ceremonies and said his connection to nursing runs deep as his grandmother, for instance, was a nurse at the Weirton Steel dispensary and his mother is a nursing instructor at Alderson Broaddus College.
Donna Montemayor, Class of 1958, gave the invocation, noting how delighted she was to see such a full house on hand for the occasion. Sister Pauline Herbert gave the benediction.
Offering brief remarks were Fred Brower, Trinity president, who called the school the lifeblood of the community and the hospital, and Keith Murdock, director of community relations and development, who offered a perspective on what was going on in 1912 when the school was getting off the ground. Pneumonia and influenza were the leading cause of death; average life expectancy was 47 years; and 90 percent of all U.S. doctors had no college education.
John Stoll, Class of 1993, was the lone male nursing graduate of the school attending. He was there with his wife, Andrea, a 1990 graduate.