Among the hundreds who crossed a major life milestone at spring commencement on May 27, 2016, was Elaine Provancha, a former nursing student who was granted an honorary alumna award from the College of Nursing Alumni Association. Provancha was set to graduate in the spring of 1947, but had to leave school before officially earning her degree. For decades, she has considered this one of her few regrets in life.
“For our family, this honorary award means in effect that our 91-year-old mother was able to complete the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps training she started in 1944,” said Elaine’s eldest son, Bradley Provancha. “It was so special to meet Lois Otto Goad from Boulder, one of what we believe is only four surviving members of the Class of 1947.”
Though she did not receive her nursing degree in 1947, the nursing education and experience Provancha earned at Denver General Hospital as a Pre-Cadet Pledge in the U.S. Nurse Cadet Corps influenced her identity her entire life. Bradley, who accompanied her to the ceremony, says that Elaine applied her nursing skills and compassion to see her four children through various illnesses including Legg-CalvePerthes Disease, chicken pox, scarlet fever, mononucleosis, measles, mumps, ringworm, andsports injuries.
Provancha certainly gained the level-headedness in the face of illness that comes from an education in nursing. She smiled with pride as Bradley disclosed that his sister recovered so well from Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease that she went on to become a ballerina. After telling a story of Bradley facing a possible leukemia diagnosis as an infant, Provancha laughed and said she wasn’t scared; her nursing education taught her to remain calm.
She described the experience of training as a cadet nurse as very proud, but fast-paced. Looking back on some of her patients as a cadet nurse, Provancha most clearly remembered her first patient as the only case that was truly easy. “I don’t remember [his condition],” she said, “but it was easy for me to clean up his unit and make his bed and it was never the same after that.”
When Provancha left her nursing education, it was to join her husband 1st Lt. Earl D. Provancha in Germany at an Army Air Corps assignment near Munich. She offered a fascinating glimpse into military life during World War II, telling tales of their time living in Germany where Bradley was born. She and CUCOLLEGE of NURSING Bradley explained that when the Americans entered Germany, they displaced German families and lived in their homes. “Here we were, young 20-year-olds moving into their big houses with all their gorgeous furniture,” she said. “That was war.”
On raising children while moving as often as the military demands, Provancha said, “The best thing I think I ever taught my children was ‘You are going to meet your new best friend.’ That’s the way I got them from one place to another.” The family called it “being raised by the mile.” They believed that as long as they were together, they always had a home even if they didn’t have a house to put it in.
In observance of the nursing education she began 69 years ago, the College of Nursing is pleased to consider Elaine Provancha an honorary alumna.