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I’m so happy about the newly launched Trinity Alumni Nursing Association (TANA). And here’s my (long) story why. Take a seat and sip some tea…

It’s no secret that I’ve often said I feel like I had three kids—a son, a daughter, and Trinity’s nursing program. Like having kids, helping start Trinity’s nursing program was a lot of work. But, oh, what fun to see each grow and mature.

And just as I want my kids to stay connected and carry on our family values, I’ve often wished the same for my nursing students.

My own nursing class, Blodgett Memorial Hospital School of Nursing Class of 1962, has stayed connected all these years via an annual letter. When we met in 2012 for a three-day celebration of our Fiftieth Anniversary (“Fifty Years of Saving Lives”), all of us credited that letter for keeping us together. We especially thanked the dedicated classmate who compiled our letters and sent a copy to us, first mimeographing, then Xeroxing, and now emailing.

Because the reminder for my class letter came every February, and I was teaching Trinity’s seniors at the time, I would suggest they keep connected in a similar way. I never knew, however, if they did.

I see good reasons for staying connected. At that 50th reunion of my class, everyone—about ten people at each of three sessions—talked about the role their nursing backgrounds had played in their lives. As I’ve written about here, those presentations serendipitously evolved into a spiritual retreat. We saw the multitude of meaningful ways God had worked through us with our families and patients and in our communities. It was so gratifying to see how just one group of nurses had “saved lives” during their careers, and I was so hoping this type of giving and sharing would be possible for my former students.

But how? And who would facilitate?

So, even though I retired in 2000, the nursing program has never left my mind. My husband and I sponsor some scholarships and we meet with those recipients each fall. Plus, we’ve used the proceeds from my career memoir, Caring Lessons: A Nursing Professor’s Journey of Faith and Self (2010), to help endow them. And I still run into folks who’ve hired our grads as employees or had them as caregivers and, upon finding out I taught at Trinity, tell me how wonderful they are. Feedback like this is not new to me; when I taught at Trinity we’d often hear glowing reports of the quality of our students.

And, of course, every time I hear something good, I want to pass it on. But how?

I do admit to being a bit of a sentimentalist, but bear with me, here comes the best part.

Last summer, I was brainstorming with Amy Eggebeen Nagelkirk, BSN ’92, from Michigan, on how alumni could become or stay connected and be involved with the Department of Nursing. She suggested forming a nursing alumni association, following a similar model for another department at Trinity, and naming it TANA. She was willing to assist in any way necessary.

Taking Amy’s willingness to be involved, and her assistance with a proposal, I met on Trinity’s Palos Heights, IL, campus last July with new Nursing Chair, Tina Visser Decker (BSN, ’06), who wholeheartedly endorsed the idea. After our meeting, Tina and I met with new Alumni Director, Bill DeRuiter, nursing faculty Lorinda Jones Lindemulder (BSN, ‘86), and representatives from the Development Office in which I presented the proposal to start TANA. It was universally accepted, with a good-natured caveat from Bill that Amy stay involved.

I was overjoyed. When I got home, I wrote “progress notes” saying, “Could not have done this without Amy’s help.” I called her and she was thrilled too, accepting her new task with her own stipulation that I stay involved. I agreed to stay in the background only, saying, “I’m so relieved to have the younger generation take over.”

Now, after working in conjunction with Bill DeRuiter and Tina Decker for the past six months, Amy, as the first president of TANA’s Board, has elicited volunteers to serve on the Board, written a mission statement, and spent hours tracking down “lost” grads (thanks Facebook, LinkedIn, and word of mouth!). She has asked one or two people from each class to serve as class representatives. These representatives will help update and maintain the alumni data base.

And TANA has just launched its own Facebook page, open to alumni and friends and giving the graduates an opportunity to be connected in the manner of TANA’s mission statement:

The mission of the Trinity Alumni Nursing Association (TANA) is to support the Department of Nursing through student-related activities, public relations, and fundraising, and to foster personal and professional relationships among alumni.

Spread the word to every graduate! Anything is possible. For starters, they can mentor a nursing student, be a prayer partner, or send exam-week care packages. They can network, post job ads, throw a party, organize a conference, or simply laugh, cry, and hope together. Or, send in their millions to support the Nursing Department forever!

Again, I am so happy that I want to shout congratulations to Amy, the Board, the class representatives, and everyone involved! Back in 1983, when a group of us started this BSN nursing program, I never dreamed that one day there would be a formal alumni nursing association. Thirty years of BSN graduates now have an opportunity to be connected and share how they are carrying on the program’s values in their practice of nursing.

Here’s a hearty welcome to all members of TANA! I thank God for each and every one of them. Or YOU, if you happen to be a Trinity nursing grad!


P.S. Of course,  the original faculty members are thirty years older now, too. But memories persist. Along with the toil of starting a nursing program, we had a lot of fun with our students. The photo below, taken in 1987, shows a few of us practicing a skit at my home before performing it at a student/faculty party. I’m on the left; I won’t embarrass the others by naming them.

I don't think we could do this now, but we could try?

Could we still do this? I bet we could try… We could call it the senior shuffle.