Class of 1971 celebrates its 50th anniversary
Apr 22, 2021
By Guylaine Spencer
The graduating nursing class of 1971 is unique in many ways. For example, they were the last small class. “We were 26 students! The next year, 40 were admitted and then 80. That makes a huge difference in terms of knowing people,” says Joanne (Green) Hunt, one of its members who is involved in planning this year’s virtual reunion. With such a small number, it’s not surprising that the group is tightknit and has managed to stay in touch over the decades, with frequent get-togethers.
They were one of the last groups to take classes in Hamilton Hall (before McMaster Health Sciences Centre was built). They also attended classes and labs across campus and ventured into various community health agencies and hospitals to gain practical experience.
The classmates were the first to wear pantsuits instead of dresses as uniforms. If you look closely at the picture above, you can see them. Slacks were just becoming acceptable for professional women in the workforce. “We were quite avant-garde. Everyone made their own pantsuit, or had someone make it for them, using the same pattern,” Hunt says with a chuckle.
Memories of school days
The classmates have fond memories of their time at McMaster.
“It was a small campus back then, more intimate,” says Hunt. “Some years our class started the school year early and left late because of our practical work. We had no spares, no time off in first year. Our schedule was jam-packed… unlike some other courses on campus that had only about 20 hours of classes per week. Some of us worked at small Red Cross Outpost Hospitals after third year. I went up to Haliburton, others to Bancroft and Minden. The influence of the McMaster School of Nursing was far-reaching globally and the school was very well-regarded, so it was an honour to be there.”
After graduating, the Class of 1971 worked in a variety of settings. “Our classmates went on to assume senior positions in organizations like the Victorian Order of Nurses and Public Health Units and to teach in community colleges,” says Hunt, who took a further diploma at McMaster and became a Primary Care Nurse Practitioner. “I worked full time in a family practice teaching unit while I studied from 1973-74 and loved it. Then, while having my three sons, I taught pre-natal classes for six years,” she says.
Sue (Linton) Young worked in various ICU and ER departments in Ontario and British Columbia prior to becoming the Nursing Program Coordinator at John Abbott College (CEGEP) in Quebec. She also helped develop the Nursing Intensive program for nurses from other countries plus those in several Indigenous communities in Canada. In addition, she consulted with McGill University when diploma and degree nursing education was being revised, all of this and more while having her four children.
Sue (Watson) Noble worked in a family practice clinic for 40 years and also sprang into action when needed to safely deliver her granddaughter, with the help of her son.
Sister Katrina Rooney, a nun with the Sisters of St. Joseph, went to northern Jamaica in 1990 to help establish a mission where the sisters taught children to read and write and treated minor ailments for those who could not afford to see a doctor. She was there for eight years and later did outreach work in Uganda as well. She passed away in 2007 at age 60.
Ruth (Driedger) Martin was in charge of a tuberculosis ward in Zambia for three years, and worked on maternity, medical and medical-surgical wards and in a nursing home in various Ontario communities.
Reunions past and present
Photo above: May 2019 in St Jacob’s
Over the years, the group has gathered for occasional weekend reunions, sometimes incorporating theatre, shopping and lots of fun time over meals. This year, due to pandemic restrictions, the celebration is all online, with the hope that they can meet in person next year.
Read: A tribute to McMaster BSCN Class of 71
Photo above: Reunion of 2012
At McMaster School of Nursing, we are celebrating our 75th anniversary in 2021.