University of Minnesota Alumni Association

Alumni Stories

Friendships Built at the U

The class of '52 has kept a round robin letter going for 65 years.

Photo courtesy Kay Hatlestad

In the age of status updates and “reply all,” it’s hard to remember that until very recently, long-distance relationships were maintained by pen and paper. If you want proof, just ask the U of M School of Nursing’s class of 1952, whose graduates have been keeping each other updated on life’s ups and downs through a round-robin letter that’s been going strong for 65 years. 

A round-robin is a collection of letters written by every member of the group (of the initial 15 graduates, nine are still alive). When one member receives the package, she reads all the letters, replaces her earlier correspondence with a new update, and sends it to the next person on the list.

While there have been lean years, it’s a method that’s clearly worked for the class of ’52, whose members forged their bond while living together in a dormitory for nursing students that was eventually razed to make way for a U hospital building. Their letters are a testament to the power of enduring friendships and a chronicle of changing times. There are concerns about how the field of nursing has become more impersonal in the age of computers, details about political awakenings, updates on children, and, now that the “Robins” are in their late 80s, bittersweet discussions of hospice, memory loss, and the death of spouses. 

For classmate Alice Arnold Litton, who hasn’t returned to Minnesota since the class of ’52’s five-year reunion, the round robin has provided a decades-long bond with other nurses. “The connection with the people who were related to my profession was very meaningful,” she says. “I felt like a part of the community even though I wasn’t there.”

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