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Golden reunion for the Class of ‘68

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.”

Golden Graduates at convocation

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.  

Elaine and Donna

“We bonded studying through the night, we spent so many nights together up studying, how could we not be close,” said Donna 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 Elaine 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.

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

Former Nursing building 

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.

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,” Elaine said in reference to all the computers and tablets used now.

Archive photo from ASU nursing

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,” Donna 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 university-wide 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.


“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 Donna and Elaine offered simple, yet sage advice to their new, fellow alumni.

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