Posted on Oct 25, 2017

Reuniting After 40 years: A USF Bull Nurse Homecoming

Reuniting After 40 years: A USF Bull Nurse Homecoming

After four decades apart, reuniting was easy. Reconnecting was effortless. 

About 10 alumni from the College of Nursing’s 1977 graduating class got together for the first time this month at their 40-year college reunion during USF’s Homecoming weekend. 

For many, it was a true homecoming. It was the first time they had seen their former nursing schoolmates since graduation in March of 1977. 

 “Honestly it felt like we were just together,” said Amy Barnes (CON ’77), a retired nurse in Newnan, GA. “It was very comfortable. It just seemed like we hadn’t been apart.” 

Mindy Gootson Spigel (CON ’77), one of the reunion organizers and Barnes’ college roommate, agreed. “It was amazing, absolutely amazing,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to reconnect with people.” 

The small group – about eight graduates and three former College of Nursing professors – stayed at a resort on Clearwater Beach and began the three-day reunion weekend by reminiscing about old class photos, memorabilia, and nursing school memories.  

Spigel, who served on the college’s student council, kept a scrapbook filled with the class “Remember When” submissions – noteworthy recollections that classmates wrote down before graduation.  They spent a large part of Friday night laughing about those “Remember When” notes as each was read aloud. 

She said the Class of ’77 was a special group of high-achieving nursing graduates who went on to stellar professional careers. They were the college’s third graduating class. 

“I was kind of proud of our class,” said Spigel, who works as a director of organizational effectiveness at the Christus Santa Rosa Health System in San Antonio, TX.  “Not only did the faculty push us to be the best, we really knew our faculty. I think that really influenced our careers.” 

Deborah Weight Rudolph (CON’77), a neonatal nurse in Savannah, GA, said her most memorable part of the weekend was the ease of reconnecting with classmates and realizing the bonds forged during nursing school never really went away. 

 “We all had a common goal as far as nursing goes,” Rudolph said. “It was just so rewarding to see everybody. It’s almost like a sisterhood. We struggled together. We had a common goal, and we worked towards that goal.” 

Of the 60 members in the Class of ‘77, a close-knit group of 42 graduated early in March of 1977. Reunion organizers managed to track down about 15 classmates through Facebook connections and about 11 made it the reunion, with some traveling as far away as Arizona and Boston. 

The reunion festivities included a Saturday morning tour of the College of Nursing, including the simulation labs, classrooms, and research facility. 

 “The research lab and the learning center – that blew us away,” said Spigel. “The nursing research that is happening there is very impressive. We basically had classroom learning. We were doing injections on each other and they don’t do that anymore.” 

Many Class of ’77 members were impressed with the state-of-the-art facilities – a stark contrast to 1977 when the school’s classrooms were held in trailers and temporary buildings. 

“In looking at the new building, I was just in awe,” said Barnes. “We were in a trailer and everybody had to stop walking when we were taking a blood pressure. We couldn’t hear. It was like nursing in the Dark Ages.” 

At the beginning of the weekend, everyone talked about meeting again in 10 years. By Sunday morning, the Class of ’77 decided to reunite in five years, Spigel said.  

“There was never an uncomfortable moment,” Barnes said. “Everything seemed so genuine.” 

To view photos from the reunion weekend, click here

Story by Elizabeth Brown, USF College of Nursing