Fostering friendship over 50 years
As first-year nursing students, the young women who would become the Class of ’59 quickly found common ground. The rigor of their studies, the pressure of being in life-and-death situations all too soon, and the shared laughter that came with living together in Helen Wood Hall all bonded this group to one another with a strength that time has not diminished.
Today, these alumnae continue to support each other through life’s ups and downs. Using the Internet, they reach out to classmates battling health challenges, they send flowers to others who have lost spouses, and they commit to getting together in person every five years, a tradition they started with their first five-year reunion.
They began gathering for three-day weekends. Erie Canal cruises, winery tours and visits to the George Eastman House are just a few of the activities they planned through the years. Eventually, they began incorporating elements of the School’s reunion into their weekends, though they retained their traditions: always a trip, a potluck dinner and a brunch before bidding each other farewell.
The Class of ’59 Scholarship is given in memory of the following alumnae.
Roberta B. Abram
Susan Weiderbrand Coda
Carol Grounds Dodge
Elaine Trad Farrell
Irene Bagneshi Frediani
Judith Stewart Grant
Edwina Koniski Kassy
Florence Walker Koniski
Delores Farnella Reedy
Carol Wadsworth Russ
In October, this gregarious group returned to the University of Rochester School of Nursing to celebrate their 50th reunion. “We pick up like we’ve never been apart,” said Connie Leary. “We were not only classmates and friends, we were each others’ teachers. We lived and breathed and suffered together. We became a family.”
Like a family, they have had their losses. To honor those classmates and friends who have died, the Class of ’59 started an endowed award that is given annually. “To represent our class we wanted something special and lasting, something that would allow us to support the School and those who want to be nurses,” said Leary.
The Class of ’59 Award is unique in that the recipients have been able to use it as they wish. “Some have written us to say that they used it to pay off utility bills or to pay for gas to get to class. Others have used it for child care,” said Leary. “We feel like in this way we are truly enabling an education. It is a tangible way to show the School of Nursing what it has meant to us, what it has given us.”
The Class of ’59 record of giving is as notable as their enduring kinship. As a group, they can proudly boast almost 100 percent participation.
Many things in the field have changed since this group of women graduated. Today’s technology provides student nurses with new platforms for learning. The Class of ’59 saw this firsthand when they toured the simulation labs in October. But the key things about nursing remain the same. Evidence of that can be seen in the recipients of the award bearing the name of the Class of ’59.
“They all have the compassion you need to have to be a good nurse,” said Leary. “You can be smart and perceptive, but you also have to be compassionate. The students we have honored share the desire to make the nursing experience better for patients. They may say it or pursue it in different ways. But they all want the same thing.”