College of Nursing

Featured Article 

First graduating class reunites for Homecoming 2014

Oct. 24, 2014

They graduated in 1964 and dispersed to pursue careers throughout the field of nursing, but they never fell out of touch. On Oct. 3, 2014, members of the College of Nursing's first graduating class reunited for ECU Homecoming and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their commencement. 

“We’re just so proud to be the first Pirate Nurses,” said Jackie Jones Stone, who attended the event with her twin and fellow first class graduate Jeanette Jones. “If we could help it, we wouldn’t miss it.”

The graduates met for a luncheon that included an update from College of Nursing Dean Dr. Sylvia Brown. Speaking on the significance of the reunion, Brown reminded the group of the college’s humble beginnings with just a handful of instructors and one office.

“A lot has changed since 1964, but you were a visionary group that gave us a strong foundation from which to grow,” she said.

From left, Brown with first class members Selba Morris Harris, Merle Sugg Modlin,
Clara Bell Smith, Donnye Barnhill Rooks, Donna S. Thigpen,
Cynthia Sturdivant Kotrady, Jeanette Jones and Jackie Jones Stone

One example of this vision, she explained, is the college’s pin that the first class members designed. On it they included a globe. The college didn’t have international programs in the 1960s, but today Guatemala and Nicaragua are just two of the countries where its faculty and students have academic and clinical connections. Each first class member in attendance received a print of a painting of the pin as a memento.

Highlighting other ways the college has grown, Brown discussed the college’s 2014 U.S. News & World Report rankings and programs such as Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses, or RIBN. RIBN makes a four-year nursing degree more accessible to students by dually enrolling them at an area community college and ECU.

Jackie and Jeanette applauded the college for providing additional pathways like the RIBN program to encourage students wishing to pursue a nursing degree. They also said it impressed them that CON graduates pass the nurse licensure exam at a rate well above the national average.

“That says a lot about the students, the faculty and the leadership,” Jeanette said. “You talk about being proud to be a graduate.”

Both sisters had careers in nursing that spanned several decades. Jeanette, of Richmond, Virginia, practiced and taught community and public health nursing at Virginia Commonwealth University. Jackie worked as a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist, also at Virginia Commonwealth University.

In addition to catching up with each other, the graduates swapped stories with three current nursing students who attended the lunch. The younger generation was shocked to learn that the first class had to sharpen needles as a part of their regular job duties, and everyone laughed when they realized organic chemistry remains a stumbling point for many nursing students even 50 years later.

Ultimately though for the first class graduates, the event was a chance to rekindle friendships developed during a formative time in their lives. Over the years, members of the first class have kept in touch with visits, planned weekends at the beach and by reuniting at Homecoming.

“It was like yesterday once we got there,” Jackie said.

“There were more stories that we could share,” Jeanette added. “We’ll do that next time.”