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CU Nursing Alums Celebrate More Than Five Decades of Friendship

Four Women Formed Special Bond During Their Time at CU Nursing

Written by Molly Smerika on October 4, 2023

“It’s special, a lot of people don’t have relationships like that –”

Irene Drabek is in the middle of explaining what her friendships with three other CU Nursing alumna mean to her, when one of those friends – Jill (Marvin) Rogge – finishes her sentence.

“Or they don’t know where their college friends are anymore so it’s special,” Rogge says.

That’s what it’s like talking to Drabek, Rogge, Claudia (Osbourn) Unrein, and Jayne (Veteto) Tomlin. The four finish each other’s thoughts and sentences in between laughs while reminiscing about their time at the University of Colorado College of Nursing, formerly the School of Nursing in Denver.

The four women – all Colorado natives – have been friends for more than 50 years.

They visited the Anschutz Medical Campus on September 29 for the CU Nursing Class of 1973 Reunion. In total, 11 alumni from the BSN class came to campus for a luncheon and campus tours. This 50th reunion was in conjunction with the annual All Alumni Celebration, where alumni from all CU Anschutz programs are invited to various events throughout the Denver metro.


Eleven alumni attended the CU Nursing Class of 1973 Reunion

A Friendship is Formed

Drabek, Rogge, Unrein, and Tomlin are all Colorado natives.   When they arrived at CU in the late ‘60s, they were enrolled in CU Nursing’s five-year program, which was a combined BS degree and nursing diploma. CU Nursing no longer offers this program.

Tomlin says she first met Unrein when Unrein was sunbathing on top of a dormitory at CU Boulder in February. With Colorado’s unpredictable weather and mild winters, sunbathing in February isn’t uncommon.

“There’s this girl laying out in the sun in February, and I’m like ‘What’s wrong with her?’” Tomlin says while laughing. “She kept doing it and we eventually ran into each other and met.”

Unrein introduced Tomlin to Rogge and Drabek. Unrein and Rogge lived on the same dormitory floor sophomore year. They also grew up 25 miles apart in Eastern Colorado, but didn’t meet until they came to CU.

“We were two years in Boulder, and when we came down to the Medical Center at 9th and Colorado, we all lived together because we had made that connection,” Drabek says.

The four lived across from the Medical Center in apartments owned by CU, each paying $50 a month in rent.

“We didn’t know you (Jayne) very well,” Drabek says.

“So, Jayne got the primo room,” Rogge says, finishing Drabek’s sentence.

“No, no, no,” Tomlin interrupts. “I got the primo room because no one knew me or wanted to stay with me. So, I was up by myself on the second floor, and I had my own bathroom…they were all in the basement. Claudia – she had all the pipes in her room.”

The women lived one year in that apartment. They say they were very frugal, spending a total of $20 a week on groceries. Their parents would send some frozen meat or canned goods to help.

“We’d each put in $5. We’d go to the grocery store every Friday after class with our calculator and figure out how much to spend. If we had money left, we’d buy donuts,” Rogge says.

“We got one donut per person for the week if we had enough money,” Drabek says.

The women lived together for three years, practicing nursing skills on each other, studying, working, and finding time to have fun.

“We’d also go back to Boulder for football games, we went tubing out by Deckers, we went to Mexico twice for spring break,” Drabek says.

A Lasting Friendship


From left to right: Jayne (Veteto) Tomlin, Claudia (Osbourn) Unrein, Jill (Marvin) Rogge, and Irene Drabek

After graduation, the women went on to have families and different career paths. Rogge and her husband spent time in the Air Force and living in England before coming back to Fowler, Colorado. Drabek lives in Arvada and Tomlin lives in Denver and visits Rogge often. Unrein splits her time in Colorado and Arizona.

Instead of friendships fizzling out, theirs remained.

The women try to get together once a year. Last year, they met in Colorado Springs and this year, they got together at the CU Nursing Class of 1973 Reunion.

They say they’ve always written to each other, and they stay in touch with a group text.

“It’s a gift…you could never trade (our friendships),” Drabek says.

“It’s one of those things that is forged, and you don’t know where it’s going to go,” Tomlin says. “You need to put the effort into it, and it’s certainly rewarding. It’s great.”

Topics: Alumni