Today’s blog post is dedicated to the memory of Kathy Jenkins Hightower, graduate of the class of 1970, Medical University of South Carolina, College of Nursing.
I graduated from The Medical University of South Carolina College of Nursing in 1970.
When I entered, it was still The Medical College of South Carolina School of Nursing. I was accepted into a three year Nurses Training Program.
After being accepted, The College received its approval to become a University and The School of Nursing was approved to become The College of Nursing.
We were told we could continue in the three year program in which we enrolled or be a part of the first BSN program and stay for four years instead of three. I opted for the BSN program.
With the three year and the four year applicants being split, each class was small. Therefore we got to know each other very well.
We were all female and our college dorm was like living in a Charleston finishing school. We all lived on one floor. There were housemothers, who assured we were studying and acting as good Southern ladies were expected to act.
We were formally called “Miss.”. I was never “Carolyn” to my housemothers or instructors. I was “Miss Priester.”
There were social functions called “tea dances” which boys from approved schools, such as The Citadel, were allowed to attend. It was the first step, no doubt, in getting us married off to approved men.
However, marriage while in school or especially pregnancy out of wedlock was forbidden. We were expected to concentrate on our studies, socialize as directed, and be equally worthy of wearing a pure white nurses’ uniform and a pure white wedding dress when the wedding day finally came.
Our class shared various momentous moments in history. While much was reported about the first female at the all male Citadel, we, in fact were the first female students to grace the halls of El Cid.
With a new MUSC program in place, the curriculum was expanded to include non-nursing classes such as English Literature, History, Chemistry and Biology.
Citadel professors were brought on board and classes were held in the basement of our dorm. Thus the fact that girls were reaping the benefits of a Citadel education was kept under wraps.
However, part of the biology class included a lab practicum. Unfortunately the Medical University did not have the appropriate labs at the time You could study germs under a microscope, but you could not pith a frog!
So we girls were put in a bus that had been painted green (unknown why) and we were bussed to The Citadel. I was told by more than one cadet that their favorite time of the week was when the “green bomb” arrived and the nursing students got out.
We were not supposed to talk, but always a few cadets whistled. And of course, being perfect finishing school type girls, we always looked demurely down and smiled.
Some of us married those cadets after college. Some of the marriages lasted. Some didn’t. But wherever we are, we still have our memories.
We also have shared memories of the strike that occurred during the civil rights disturbances of the early 70s.
The Medical University Hospital, faced with the absence of many of their staff, coped with the problem by putting us students to work in their places.
With threats all around us, marches being held, and the National Guard escorting us into the hospital, we hung together and survived.
We had many more adventures together that spanned the four years we were there. I was a writer even then. So I wrote our class song to the tune of the song, Sunrise, Sunset. Somewhere in my very large collection of writing, I still have the lyrics.
It turned out to be prophetic, as our lives unfolded. Some of those dreams that were woven together back then actually came true. Some didn’t. There was laughter. There were tears.
We took our nursing skills across the country and around the world. Some of us married. Some of us lost our spouses, either by death or divorce. Some of us had children. Some of us now have grandchildren.
Many of us kept in touch or rediscovered each other through social media. We looked with joy and appreciation at pictures of our mature selves. We remembered ourselves as young people, and still find traces of those same people in the smiles.
And sadly, we had to accept that even though we studied how to be healers, we were not immune from illness ourselves.
Soon after college, we lost my college roommate, Martha Madden, to cancer. Today, I received news that another of us, Kathy Hightower, has been promoted to Heaven after a courageous battle with cancer.
Those of us who remain in our earthly assignments, remember each other and the four important years of our life that brought us together and now hold us together in memory.
“Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly flow the days.
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze.
Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset.
Swiftly fly the years,
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears.”
We are a part of the sunrises and sunsets. But we have now seen enough of them to know when the sun sets one place, it rises somewhere else!