Alumni of St. Luke's Hospital School of Nursing enjoy first gathering in 14 years.


PITTSFIELD -- More than 100 alumni of St. Luke's Hospital School of Nursing gathered for the first time in 14 years for a reunion at the Crowne Plaza on Saturday, bringing yearbooks, archaic nurses' garb and the obligatory tales of learning the trade under the watchful eyes of strict nuns.

For some of the 126 who attended, the reunion marked the first time they'd seen their peers in half a century. This in mind, the reunion committee included both maiden and married names on the name badges they handed out. Some who attended traveled from as far away as Illinois and Minnesota.

"We've had such a good time here today," said Mary Martinelli of Dalton, a graduate of the class of 1955. "These friends we made here have been parts of our lives for 60 years. We've touched the lives of so many people in one way or another."

The nursing school graduated 1,194 over its life, which began in 1917 and ended when St. Luke's closed in 1974. The school opened as the Boylan Memorial Hospital School of Nursing and the name was changed to St. Luke's in 1926.

In their careers, the school's graduates assumed jobs as nurses and public health professionals all over the county -- filling its hospitals, schools, clinics and doctor's offices. Some remain leaders in community health to the present.

Their impact didn't end in the Berkshires, though. Others fanned out to places all over the country, from the south to the West Coast.

Betty Shalley Chludzinski of Pittsfield, president of the school's 260-member alumni association and a graduate of the class of 1961, said the school's graduates went on to "do just about everything" in the health care field.

"I don't think when we were graduating we understood the multitude of directions nursing would allow us to go in," Chludzinski said. "You get out there and chance takes over."

Chludzinski's own professional credits include serving as associate director and later executive director of the Lee Regional Visiting Nurse Association; 18 years as a childbirth educator; chairing a regional health promotion council for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health; and leading North Adams' REACH Community Health Foundation.

Chludzinski and Arlene Florczyk McCauley of Hinsdale, a graduate of the class of 1969 and co-chair of the reunion committee, joked about the Sisters of Providence, nuns who staffed St. Luke's and weren't exactly known for their cheerfulness.

But McCauley said those hard-nosed nuns yielded results.

"We learned to do things the right way and the patients always came first," McCauley said.

Saturday's all-day festivities included a lunch, business meeting, church service and dinner. Chludzinski said the alumni association will also host a Christmas party at the Basswater Grill in Cheshire on Dec. 8.

To reach Phil Demers:
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