Montreal General nursing school alumnae hold farewell gala

Former Montreal Nurses end Alumnae Association with a gala
WATCH: Hundreds of Montreal General Hospital Nursing School Alumnae came for one last party after more than a hundred years of history. Elysia Bryan-Baynes has the sights and sounds from the event.

Hundreds of former Montreal General nursing students gathered at the Chateau Champlain on Friday night to close down their long-running alumnae association.

“When we get together, it is like we never left,” said association president Barbara Arseneau.

The nursing school opened in 1890, and the alumnae association formed in 1905.

By the time the school closed in 1972, more than 4,000 nurses had graduated from the program.

“It makes us proud to be from the Montreal General Hospital,” said class of 1959’s Judy Kingsburgh.

Nurses doing their training lived in dormitories while they studied.

“Because it was all women, there was more freedom. There were a lot of pranksters who liked to flaunt the rules. It was hard work but we got along really well,” said Margaret Bartley, who came from Virginia to take part in the celebrations.

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The school was eventually integrated into the CEGEP system, but the alumnae association kept going with annual events.

Many made the trip to the final reunion from across the globe, as 560 graduates came out for the party.

Graduates from Australia, Germany, England, the United States and the Caribbean said they couldn’t miss the association’s final gala.

“I came in from Bermuda,” said Marion Watlington.

It was the first time Watlington came back for an association event since she graduated in 1968.

Watlington went into medicine after nursing. “I really needed my nursing beginning to be the doctor I am today.”

Janet Mitchell Watson flew in from Jamaica.

“It was just a wonderful experience. The Montreal General Hospital gave us a great education that we’ve carried through our lives,” said Watson.

“I’m proud that we were able to keep it going this long, given that we haven’t been able to get new members in since 1972,” said Arseneau.

Even though it is the association’s last big bash, graduates say they will still try to keep in touch with their classmates and find their own way to keep the unique history of the nursing school alive.

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