Sixty years ago this week, seniors from the first graduating class of the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing passed the torch to the junior class in a capping and candle lighting ceremony reported in the local newspaper, the Oakland Tribune.
The school was dear to the hearts of industrialist Henry J. Kaiser and his wife, Bess, who established the Permanente Foundation Health Plan (later renamed Kaiser) at the beginning of World War II. Its founding purpose was to provide funds for medical research and educational and community service programs in addition to creating Kaiser Permanente.
Mr. and Mrs. Kaiser personally presented the diplomas to the nursing school graduates in 1950.
Bess Kaiser died in 1951, and the honor guard at her funeral service was made up nurses from the nursing school.
Kaiser sent each member of that honor guard a St. Christopher Medal and a hand written note that read, in part, “…The Honor Guard service was a most beautiful thing and…it gave me strength and courage… Mrs. Kaiser would want to wish you that health and safety may always accompany you and she will be happy knowing that you can have the blessing of this St. Christopher Medal.”