The Amazing Class of 1969 – 50 years later
We are the “A” students (Class of ’69), “A” being not necessarily a reflection of our grades, merely the designation the School of Nursing gave to their “streams” in 1965-9. “A” were the 4-year generic students, “B” Administration, “C” Public Health and “D” Degree Completion students who joined us in third year. Most of us “A” students met each other in September 1965. We were a group of young fresh-faced hopefuls who saw the many years of nursing ahead as an exciting vocation. There were about 35 of us and we ran between classes of nursing fundamentals, nursing skills labs, chemistry, zoology, math, microbiology, sociology, and psychology. We played football in the Teacup game against the Home Ec. students and won! We studied hard and long, had many successes and challenges – some very difficult and some invigorating and we had some crazy escapades, that if done today would catch the attention of authorities. The times were different then and it was all great fun and fair game.
We remember fondly the Wesbrook building that housed the School of Nursing. That first year we paid strict attention in our Anatomy and Physiology classes with Margaret Campbell and we learned how to make a bed, bathe each other, put on an abdominal scultetus binder and many other essential skills. Bed bathing each other was a hit because it allowed us to count and categorize the numerous bruises some of us had sustained playing football in the Teacup!
After eight gruelling on-campus months the real fun began when they let us loose on actual patients at St. Paul’s. That first “real” injection, catheterization and patient death though terrifying and sad brought the vocation to life and we knew we had made the right choice. That began two and a half years of living in residences at St. Paul’s, VGH and Riverview. And in apartments with each other as we scraped through on very little money. We shared, we carpooled, we were best friends and we played pranks on each other to relieve the tensions of exam times. The memories of these pranks are fresh today and were hilariously relived at our reunion this year. It was the days of the Teacup, Engineering stunts, Lady Godiva rides and “kidnappings” -skulking around the campus late at night to locate our “detained” classmate in the bowels of the Engineering building and seeing with horror the hordes of red-coated men surrounding the apartment where we were entertaining the EUS President! It also involved firmly keeping our eyes on the goal of graduating while being lured by the entreaties of the Students for a Democratic Society that were disrupting universities here and in the US.
It was a time of unrest and great change and we thrived on being part of it.
We thank our outstanding instructors like Julie Olson, Helen Niskala, Polly Capelle, Mary Richmond, Margaret Campbell, Margaret Neylan, Helen Olson, Silvia Homes, Helen Cawston and of course Beth McCann. They taught us what it is to be a nurse and how to do it.
Part of being a nurse was knowing how to follow orders and rules, and to respect hierarchies. This played out in making sure we only wore skirts or dresses to class (no pants allowed and certainly not jeans!), leapt to attention when a doctor or Head Nurse entered a room, took the less grand(!) seats (or none at all) at Report and addressed all instructors formally. Of course, we knew their first names and they knew ours, but we were all known by the title of “Miss”. Imagine our surprise when at the end of third year, out of the blue, they started calling us by our first names! We could have been knocked over by a feather! They must have had a meeting…..
We wore the heavily starched pink and white striped uniforms and pointy caps that said we were from UBC. Some thought we were candy-stripers rather than highly qualified university nursing students!
We learned a great deal. Our program was based strongly on nursing principles and they have stood us in good stead over the decades.
Here are some of the things we did during our careers:
- Provided direct care in all areas of clinical nursing both within health care facilities and the community, with a strong preponderance of public health
- Taught at all levels within hospital, college, and university nursing programs and health care agencies across Canada and in the United States
- Taught in other health programs such as the UBC Medical School
- Developed and participated in such programs as street nurses for “hippies” on 4th avenue and the Downtown East side, Nobody’s Perfect Parenting Program, Alberta Infection Control Programs, Comprehensive Abortion and Reproductive Education, community conferences on Healthy Schools, Breastfeeding, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Multidisciplinary Community Outreach, Hungarian university nursing schools Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition
- Worked internationally, primarily in the US – Hawaii, California, Illinois, and in Hungary
- Worked around Canada – throughout BC, Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia
- Engaged in further study: Breast Feeding and Lactation Consultant, Masters Programs in Mental Health, Adult Education, Family Therapy, Fine Arts, Liberal Studies, Public Sector Administration
- Became Administrators (Deans, Directors, Coordinators, Managers), Clinical Resource Nurses, Consultants and Researchers
- Engaged in volunteer work such as at the Institute for Mental Health (UBC), education and support of family care givers, RNABC, RPNABC, education for volunteer hospice care workers, health facility Boards of Directors, community groups, National Business and Economic Roundtable on Mental Health
- Undertook other careers: medical office assistants, accountant, successful artist with a focus of loss and grief
From May 2 – 7 2019 we held our 50-year reunion celebration. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to reconnect and assess how we have each managed the years and challenges life has thrown our way. We spoke and listened deeply, with curiosity, caring and humour. We missed the ones who have left us and those unable due to health reasons to participate in our events – in all, out of the 35 women who started with us in 1969, 25 graduated and 15 were able to be together for our event. How easy it was to talk together as if the years have never happened!
We had a catered dinner at a classmate’s house, a visit to UBC SON with Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc and lunch at the old Faculty Club, a cruise up Indian Arm and a two-day visit to Whistler. In all, it was a blessing to re-kindle the old attachments and amazing to notice that although 54 years have passed since we met each other we still know each other, and the endearing and other personality quirks remain even though our appearances may have changed!
We graduated on May 30, 1969. One of our class was honoured to represent us and all alumni at the graduation ceremony at the Chan Centre on May 30, 2019 – 50 years to the day of our own commencement. She greeted and congratulated this year’s many graduating Nursing and Nurse Practitioner students. It was a true privilege to pass on the torch from us to them and to wish them abundant success in navigating their future career. We will be watching with keen interest.