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Plaque commemorates local nursing school history

PLATTSBURGH - Thirty years after its closure, the CVPH School of Nursing has been officially recognized for its role in educating many who have found fulfillment working in the nursing field.

Registered nurse Marceline Kavanagh, who serves as president of the CVPH Nurses Alumni Association, unveiled a plaque at CVPH Medical Center March 25 that commemorates the history of the school, which operated from 1913 to 1979.

"We felt that it was time we do something like this," said Kavanagh, who noted the plaque had been some time in the works. "It means a great deal to me, but I want it to mean a lot more to the members. The members are the alumni, and they're the important ones."

During its history, the CVPH School of Nursing graduated 1,200 nurses. The school evolved over the years, starting out as the Champlain Valley Hospital School of Nursing, then becoming the Champlain Valley School of Nursing, and finally adopting the name it beared until it closed in 1979.

The school, said Kavanagh, was overseen by the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, an organization then comprised of nuns wearing traditional Roman Catholic habits. It was located on what is today the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh campus, with only one of the school's original buildings still standing, Champlain Valley Hall. Those studying at the school lived on campus, and endured long days with a heavy courseload, said Kavanagh.

"It was a very tough program, very strict," Kavanagh recalled. "We would get up at six in the morning, go to Mass at the hospital chapel and then our day began and it didn't end until about eight o'clock in the evening because we had a lot of time on duty, working as a nurse. Then, we had classes."

"But, the nuns did a beautiful job and we got an education for probably a thousand dollars or less," she added. "And, today, a nursing education is like $60,000."

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