Entering Mennonite College of Nursing’s Centennial Gala was like stepping into a 1920s dream. From dapper suits to flapper gowns, the college’s community was dressed to the nines. Glasses clinked and laughter filled the room as friends new and old gathered to celebrate the college’s 100th anniversary.
In a red floor-length lace gown, Dean Judy Neubrander took the stage as the night’s emcee. Her smile widened as she looked across the room with pride. “There are so many things that make this college exceptional, but if I had to choose one, it would be the people,” she said, emotion filling her voice. “The faculty, the staff, the students, the alumni, the friends of the college, the university and community members … all of these people have helped us get to where we are today.”
The dining room, bathed in a soft blue glow, was lined with twinkle lights and real trees. In this space, so many paths came together. The night was filled with stories from across generations: alumni celebrating their golden jubilee, current undergraduate nursing students eager to begin their careers, and everyone in between.
Perhaps the most memorable of these came from Vickie Lannie ‘65, who shared her infamous bedpan story.
Don’t know it? Well, you’ll have to ask her. After all, the fun is in the telling. Lannie began her career at Mennonite Hospital in 1965. As a student, she took special interest in dying patients, leading her to a career in hospice care.
Reflecting back on her time as a student at MCN, Vickie had this to say:
Many memories flood my mind tonight . . .
Living for three years in Troyer Memorial Nurses Dormitory
- Water fights
- Wearing rolled-up jeans under my skirt when leaving the dorm, then hanging my skirt on a bush to be re-worn when re-entering the dorm
- 6:30 a.m. mandatory chapel services
- Students smoking on the roof, causing the Fire Department to be summoned, followed by probation for three years — Not that I had any personal knowledge of that event!
- Housemothers Elsie Staley and Bertha Lawson
- Scrubbing for surgery when the doctors pretended they didn’t know which organ was the gallbladder
- Witnessing my first death
- Watching my first birth
- Kneeling while my cap was placed atop my head
- Having the Mennonite School pin placed on my white graduation uniform
Conjuring memories from MCN’s past, the Gala fashion show brought a century of nursing education practice back to life. Professor Cates Corwin narrated while students, faculty, and staff modeled nursing uniforms ranging from 1919’s early crisp, white, ankle-length aprons to today’s familiar blue scrubs. Like a time capsule, the show gave guests a rare glimpse of some artifacts usually kept in the Illinois State archives. Other uniforms were expertly recreated by Janet Harman, who viewed the original artifacts, read through the MCN history books, and selected fabric that would best capture the right feel for each uniform.
If you were there, you might have spied Illinois State President Larry Dietz sporting his MCN pride in a black suit and red tie, former Mennonite Director Miss Maxwell (played by Instructor Becky Lamont) confiscating an engagement ring, and Miss Beulah Nice (played by Teresa Novy, D.N.P.) measuring skirt lengths with a yard stick.
When the stories ended and the cheesecake plates were left with only crumbs, the dance floor opened up. Dean Neubrander led the charge, taking the hands of guests as she passed by the tables, encouraging them to join her in the first line dance.
We all know the roller coaster of emotions that comes with nursing: those highs and lows, the impossible saves and devastating losses. There, on the dance floor, trading twirls with friends, family, classmates, and colleagues, we were reminded how important it is to take these moments to smile and dance. We were reminded of the incredible strength of spirit at the heart of this college. We were reminded that however we find ourselves on MCN’s doorstep, we leave changed.
We leave as part of the MCN family.
As the music slowed and the lights dimmed, guests embraced, making plans to keep in touch. We each took home our commemorative glass coin, an MCN champagne flute, and memories to last a lifetime.
“Never has there been a day that I have not been grateful to have graduated from the greatest nursing education provider,” said Vickie. “Mennonite’s flame keeps burning bigger and brighter.”
This story was originally printed as part of MCN’s 2019 Commemorative Flame Magazine. To view the full magazine, visit the Mennonite College of Nursing website.
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