Golden reunion for the nursing Class of '68

Nursing graduates from 1968 pose for a photo, some are seated, some are standing.

Back row (left to right): Joanne (Prebil) Retzer, Cheryl (Mugridge) Fanning, Kathleen (Taylor) Parker, Judy (Shires) Avery, Elaine (McCaw) Miller, Donna (Hausman) Skarecky, Lucille “Lou” Baldwin. Front row (left to right): Bertha Sepulveda, Karen (Dumas) Mazzola, Ann (Stoneall) Ryan, Terry Elliott, Barbara (Booth) Sheets


Each year Arizona State University makes it a point to recognize and celebrate Golden Graduates, those who are marking their 50th anniversary since graduation, and 2018 was no exception.

“We invite the golden graduates and their families back to campus to share their journeys and see what it is like to be a student today,” said College of Nursing and Health Innovation Community and Alumni Relations Manager Angie Haskovec, adding, “we love to hear their stories, see them reunite with past classmates, watch their eyes light up when they see how different things are from when they were students.”

This year, there were 14 golden graduates from the College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s class of 1968 participating in the celebrations, among them, Elaine Miller and Donna Skarecky.

The pair met their sophomore year on the first day of nursing school, where they were in the same study group and got along well. By the following year they decided to move in together and have a go as roommates.  

“We bonded studying through the night, we spent so many nights together up studying, how could we not be close,” said Skarecky adding, “Elaine is the sister that I never had. We are family.”

Five decades later and they’re just as close as ever.

“We went through all the good and bad times," said Miller, adding, “We are aunts to each other’s kids.”

As the duo celebrates this momentous milestone, they shared some of what life was like as a nursing student in the 1960’s.

Elaine and Donna

Elaine Miller and Donna Skarecky

Back then it was called the College of Nursing, with fewer than 500 students enrolled and a couple of dozen faculty.

Located on the Tempe campus, their classes were held in what they described as a “little house” and their graduating class included just more than 50 students, a majority of whom were receiving their traditional BSN, the rest RN to BSN.

Former Nursing building

This was the first "above ground" building fully dedicated to nursing on the Tempe campus and where many of the golden graduates attended classes.

A lot has changed from then to now especially with the advent of technology not only in the classroom but in health care settings as well.

“We had to do everything written by hand – which hopefully meant we had better handwriting,” Miller said in reference to all the computers and tablets used now.

Archive photo from ASU nursing

Nursing students wash their hands.

Another big difference is that students no longer have to practice various needle skills on one another, and haven’t for some time.

“We remember drawing each other’s blood. We never started IVs but if we gave injections it was a small amount of saline,” Skarecky said adding, “we did a very good job because we knew someone else was going to do it to us.”

Now, students have access to a state-of-the-art simulation and learning resources lab where they’re able to work through health care scenarios with life-like manikins. It offers a safe, controlled environment for students to make mistakes and learn from them.

Earlier this year, the Golden Graduates were invited to tour the lab, reconnecting with each other and connecting with current students, which they absolutely enjoyed.

They also had an opportunity to check out other points of interest across all four campuses, to get an idea of how things have grown and changed universitywide since they became alumni 50 years ago.

When it was time for Spring Convocation, the group of Golden Graduates had an integral role to play.

line of ASU nursing Golden Grads in graduation gowns

50 years later, this group of Golden Graduates returned to ASU to participate and be recognized during the college's convocation ceremony.

“We enjoy getting to share our gratitude and appreciation for their contributions and to thank them for being a part of our college’s history,” Haskovec said.

After a celebratory breakfast where they visited with classmates who, in some cases, they had not seen in 50 years, they all adorned matching maroon caps and gowns and took their place at the front of the procession, leading the Class of 2018 graduates into the auditorium.

From the front row, they cheered and celebrated as the next generation of nurses, practitioners, health care researchers, leaders and innovators took to the stage to be rewarded for their efforts.

Both Skarecky and Miller offered simple, yet sage advice to their new, fellow alumni.

“Don’t stay somewhere just because it is good pay or convenient,” said Miller, with Skarecky adding, “Take time to enjoy life.”