House Call - Alumna Gets Special Visit

Like many others, Florence Mortensen Cline (’44) habeen looking forward to the Clarkson College Alumni Weekend event in 2020. It would have been a chance to meet with former classmates in person, catch up on each other’s lives and celebrate with one another. COVID-19, however, had other plans and to help keep the community safe, the College decided to move all Alumni Weekend events onlineSaddened but understanding, Florence sat down to write a letter to the College and tell the community what she wouldn’t be able to share during Alumni Weekend.  

Inspired by her letter, College President Dr. James Hauschildt and Alumni & Advancement Coordinator Kat Pursell (’19) took Florence up on her offer for a visit and stopped by her house during Spirit Week. It was the chance to gain insight into the history and people who make Clarkson College what it is today—an institution driven by the passion and dedication of its community.  

Florence and Gene, her husband of nearly 78 years, welcomed the guests into their home in Omaha, Neb. Prominently displayed in the living room, right next to Gene’s photo from his time in the military, was Florence’s graduation photo from the Bishop Clarkson Memorial School of Nursing. The photo shows Florence in her white nurses cap, which she proudly wore along with her nurses cape during the visit. 


Just shy of her 98th birthday, Florence could still remember the names of many of her Bishop Clarkson Memorial School of Nursing classmates“What I remember most are my best friends,” she said. As she pulled out scrapbooks and showed photos of her nursing school classmates, she spoke about the time she and her classmates spent playing tricks, both on one another and on school administrators. “We would sneak out through the fire escape, and to get back in, you had to have someone down waiting for you at the door,” she said.  


Breaking curfew wasn’t Florence’s only act of rebellion, howeverDuring the time she was enrolled at the School of Nursing, students were prohibited from getting married. “If you were married, the idea was that you would spend too much time with your husband, and not enough on school,” she said. She and Gene, however, met and decided to get married while Florence was still a student. They kept their marriage a secret from school administrators for years until Florence graduated and passed her nursing exams.  

During the visit, Florence and Dr. Hauschildt spoke about the changes in the nursing field as well as the school. Long since retired, Florence keeps up with the roles of nurses by speaking with her grandson, who is a licensed nurse practitioner. She said she marvels at his abilities and how his education differs from her own training. “I love speaking to him,” she said. “He knows the reasons behind everything he does. Nurses now can do things that are way beyond me.”   

Nevertheless, today’s nurses are building on the legacy that Florence and her classmates helped establish years ago. It’s a legacy that resonates with today’s graduates just as much as it did with Florence. Her love of the profession shows no sign of diminishingand her appreciation for the education she received from Bishop Clarkson Memorial School of Nursing is evident whenever she speaks about the school. Florence’s guests left her home reminded of how fortunate the institution is to have alumni who continue to share our institution’s story and inspire future generations.  


Letter from Florence Mortensen Cline  

Dear Clarkson Friends,   

Such a pause in our lives. Never thought a “bug” that I could not see or identify would stop the world so radically. So, of course it will be impossible for me or my “big sister” to attend together, which I had hoped to do this fall.  

My “big sister”, Emily Zabka Bellinghiere who was 99 on July 14, and myself, Florence Mortensen Cline, 98 on Sept. 26, had planned to get together, but wow, Corona flew in and we are now home based. Emily and I think we are the only living ones in our classes. Both used to be redheads—or strawberry blonde—now, I’m totally grey.   

My husband of nearly 78 years and myself are healthy as far as we know—just moving a lot slower. We are still in our own home with our daughters nearby to see that we have help where it is needed.  

I am still very interested in what nurses now know and what is expected of them. (My grandson is an LPN, and he knows and does more procedures than I can think of). I am so proud of what I hear and see on TV, although I am not actually a TV fan, as I keep busy doing craft items, keeping the beds made, waiting for my daughters to show up to take me somewhere—anywhere! Sewing has been a hobby, along with dominoes, card games, church, praying for our country and the young people who will eventually be in charge. Maybe one of today’s Clarkson College nurses will be mayor here in Omaha. She or he will be a leader of some value I am sure.  

I showed my Bishop Clarkson School cap and pins to a young friend last week. They don’t wear white like we did (and I was so excited when that day came). I have kept a few things, especially my cape, and I wear it once a year if possible—no moth holes yet! I also have the grey dress we wore as students. I disliked fixing our caps, collars and cuffs (I still have two of mine, starched and ready to go—ha! My hair is off my collar by a couple of inches 

I hope I’m around and able to attend in 2021, as I so enjoyed and was blessed in my nursing career. God’s blessing to all Clarkson students and fellow graduates.  

Florence Mortensen Cline 
Class of 1944