REUNION brings together 200 alumni and friends

Day-long celebration included a chance to reconnect with old friends, a nurse leaders panel, alumni awards, and a ribbon-cutting of the M. Christine Schwartz Experiential Learning & Simulation Laboratory.

Traveling from as far as Saudi Arabia and as near as Randolph Street, about 200 UIC College of Nursing alumni and friends gathered on the Chicago campus on Oct. 12 for the annual all-alumni REUNION.

The day-long celebration began with a breakfast and recognition of the college’s new Alumni Mentor Program and culminated in a ceremonial ribbon-cutting of the M. Christine Schwartz Experiential Learning & Simulation Laboratory.

“It was so much fun seeing everyone again,” says Vada Grant, BSN ’69, who helped assemble 23 members of her graduating class for their 50th class reunion. “We were amazed that 50 years had passed. The day was not long enough; we had so much to share.”

Grant said the current Chicago campus College of Nursing building, 845 S. Damen Ave., was under construction when she was a student and opened shortly after her class graduated. She and her former classmates reminisced about the leadership of then-dean Mary Kelly Mullane and the turbulence of the late 1960s.

“These were the times that bound us together as we learned a profession which would carry us through the next 50 years,” Grant says.

Celebrating nurse leaders

After a welcome from Dean Terri Weaver, PhD, RN, FAAN, ATSF, three nurse leaders spoke in a panel discussion on the topic of quality in health care. They were: Dale E. Beatty, DNP ’17, RN, NEA-BC, vice president and chief nursing officer of Stanford Health Care; Jodi S. Joyce, RN, MBA, NEA-BC, FACHE, associate vice chancellor for quality and patient safety at University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System and chief quality officer, UI Hospital and Clinics; and Sandra Martell, DNP ’10, MS ’93, RN, public health administrator at Winnebago County (Illinois) Health Department.

At a celebratory lunch, certificates and mementos were presented to those celebrating milestone anniversaries, and the college’s 2019 alumni award winners were recognized.

“I am terribly proud to be a UIC alum,” said Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Mariann Piano, PhD ’88, MS ’84, RN, FAAN, FAHA, the Nancy and Hilliard Travis Professor of Nursing at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. “The education that I received in both [the master’s and PhD] programs was rich and deep, and it was steeped in a philosophy of excellence, hard work and high expectations.”

Also recognized were Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award Recipients Julia Muennich Cowell, PhD, MS ’74, RN, APHN-BC, FAAN, professor emerita of Rush University’s College of Nursing; Jehad Omar Halabi, PhD ’96, associate professor at the College of Nursing, King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences in Al Ahsa, Saudi Arabia; Judith McDevitt, PhD ’97, MS ’90, BSN ’88, RN, clinical associate professor emerita at the UIC College of Nursing; and Mary Crabtree Tonges, PhD, MS ’77, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, former senior vice president and chief nursing officer at the University of North Carolina Hospitals.

In the afternoon, alumni visited old haunts and saw new sites on a student-led campus tour before attending the ribbon-cutting of the college’s $6.1 million Schwartz Lab, which was 100% philanthropically funded and features the latest in simulation and experiential learning technology.

Speaking to her fellow alumni, UIC College of Nursing Alumni Board president Jan Spunt, MS ’83, BSN ’74, recalled that the lower level, where the new Schwartz Lab is located, was once home to lockers and bathrooms.

“Back in the day when we were students, the sim lab wasn’t quite as nice as you’re going to see today,” she said, tongue-in-cheek. “All of these changes were possible because of donations from generous alumni. It wouldn’t have been possible to do this without donations both large and small.”