Reflecting on Their Legacy

"Oh my goodness!"

I haven’t seen you in 50 years!” “How could all this time have gone by since our graduation?” “Where has 40 years gone?” “You haven’t changed a bit.” The two days of reconnecting with their alma mater and former classmates began with warm, heartfelt greetings as the anniversary classes of 1966 and 1976 welcomed one another to Alumni Weekend.

This year’s alumni celebrations began with brunch on Sept. 15 on campus in Howard Hall. Alumnae reminisced, shared joyful memories and caught up on their lives after graduation. Clarkson College President Dr. Tony Damewood updated attendees on the progress of the College and welcomed them back to their alma mater.

Dangling proudly from the wrists of many alumnae were their “Kiewit Hall” bracelets. Each Clarkson School of Nursing student received one of these solid gold bracelets at graduation, making them a true treasure.

Following the brunch, alumnae were treated to a campus tour led by College student ambassadors. The high-fidelity Simulation Labs, updated classrooms and newly renovated Dr. Louis and Susan Burgher Board Room were areas of interest on the tour.

Heritage Garden Walk

At the tour’s conclusion, College faculty and staff joined the anniversary classes in the Clarkson Service League Heritage Garden to celebrate the boulder and four bricks that were donated and installed this past year. The first brick honored the recently retired Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program, which was given by LPN graduates. Another brick was donated in memory of the students whose lives were tragically lost in a campus shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. The teaching legacy of General Education Anatomy Professor, Mary Balken, was commemorated through the third brick donation given by Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Andreia Nebel. The legacy of alumna Linda Plettner (’64) was honored by a brick donation from classmate and longtime friend Linda Whaley Taylor (’64). Linda was also commemorated by her sister Beth Nave, who captured Linda’s love of nursing on a plaque inscription stating, “A nurse forever.”

During the Heritage Garden Walk celebration, Alumni Association President Nicole Hardin discussed the meaning of the Clarkson Service League Heritage Garden and those honored or memorialized there.

“This garden space has very special memories for each of us—memories of those that we honor, of those that we remember, of those that we still cherish today and for those that mentored us. No matter what the memory, there is a common thread woven into each of the bricks that stands for so much more than just a brick in the ground. There is a footprint of Clarkson College Values that each of us—alumni, faculty, the Board, past, present, and future students—have contributed and shared with someone in their life. That legacy and footprint is one of lifelong learning, caring and compassion, inspired by Clarkson College core Values.”

Historical Trolley Tour

An Omaha historical trolley tour wrapped up day one of Alumni Weekend, with Kiewit Hall as the first stop on the agenda. Outside of the former school and dormitory, alumna enjoyed reminiscing about where they resided during their nursing school training. The Florence Nightingale sculpture still proudly graces the building’s west wall.

The trolley made its way downtown for a visit to Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Dean Loya led the tour of the 133-year-old Cathedral, which stands today in exquisite condition. Stunning hand-crafted stained glass windows line the Cathedral space, each window representing a parish existing in the Diocese of Nebraska at the time the building was constructed. Trinity Episcopal Cathedral holds many stories and tributes to Omaha’s early founders, and it has also played a significant part in the history of Clarkson School of Nursing and Clarkson College. Cappings, convocation and graduation ceremonies were held there, contributing to the rich history of the Cathedral and the College.

As the tour rounded Midtown’s Turner Park, Gene, the tour’s trolley driver, made note of the eight Horses of Honor, a painted horse sculpture exhibit created to honor the lives of the fallen heroes of the Omaha police department. The art instillation also features a bronze dog honoring fallen K-9 Kobus, a 9-year-old Belgian Malinois killed in the line of duty. A final stop at Joslyn Art Museum included a stroll through the Sculpture Gardens and photographs of the art deco space. The class of 1976 payed tribute to their graduation ceremony by staging a group photo on the building’s pink marble steps.

Attendees were also able to witness history in the making with the in-progress demolition of Omaha’s Civic Auditorium and a former restaurant space along the Missouri riverfront.

Continuing Educational Event

The Friday morning alumni events began with a continuing educational presentation entitled “Organ Donation: Both Sides of the Equation.” A full house of participants learned about the newest regulations and processes for organ procurement. The speakers graciously donated their time and expertise to deliver a very informative and inspiring event. The session concluded with an emotional open discussion with organ recipient Sarah Presnosil and wife of an organ donor, Vanessa Hamil.

Alumni Dinner

Entertainment & Festivities

Alumni Weekend drew to a close with a celebratory dinner at The Players Club on Friday evening. Alumnae enjoyed their continued conversation and reminiscing, creating a perfect, intimate atmosphere for the Weekend’s final event. The Q Street Quartet provided the evening’s entertainment, which encouraged sing-alongs, clapping and a respectful tribute during Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”

Typically, the Honorary Alumni award is given during the alumni dinner. However, this year’s recipient was unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances. The award will be given at a later date during a Clarkson College Community meeting and published in a future issue of the Alumni Times.

Good byes, tears, hugs and promises to keep in touch were shared as another enjoyable Alumni Weekend came to a close.