“We talk about husbands, kids, lifestyles, where we’ve been. There’s nothing we can’t talk about,” Cromwell says. “I feel like I have five new-old friends.”
In 1966, the Colorado Woman's College offered a year-abroad program. Six adventurous young women signed up to travel to Madrid, Spain, where they lived with local families, attended classes and went on field trips.
After graduating in 1967, the women, who had been such good friends in college, lost touch.
Four decades had passed when Linda Brown Cromwell decided to look for her old friends using the Internet and through the alumnae network at what is now the Women's College of the University of Denver. (The name of the college was changed when it became affiliated with DU.)
After a bit of sleuthing, Cromwell, a retired teacher who lives in Fruita, Colo., contacted all five of her friends and convinced them to attend their 43rd college reunion together in Denver in June 2010.
All five joined her, and since then, the "Madrid Six," as Cromwell has named them, have visited together twice more and kept in touch by telephone and round-robin emails.
"We talk about husbands, kids, lifestyles, where we've been. There's nothing we can't talk about," Cromwell says. "I feel like I have five new-old friends."
Dianne Comstock, who lives in Sarasota, Fla., agrees.
"We're so open with what's going on in each other's lives," says Comstock, who worked as a teacher after graduating and later became a registered nurse and nursing instructor. "It's kind of like we're sitting in the dorm letting it all out. We didn't realize how deep the bond was until we reunited."
In February 2011, Comstock hosted the group at her home in Florida. In August 2011, Kathy Barnum Jones hosted the group at her home on Lake Erie in Ohio. The women are planning another get-together, maybe in Key West, Fla., Cromwell says.
"Connections such as these are what make women's experiences so resonant at the college," says Lynn Gangone, dean of the Women's College.
Colorado Woman's College was founded in 1888 as the "Vassar of the West." The college began offering classes in 1909 and continued until 1982, when it merged with the University of Denver. The Women's College was incorporated in 1997 as its own undergraduate unit. It is the only women's college in the country to exist inside of a coeducational institution following a merger.
"There is something special about connecting with someone who knew you when you were very young," says Donna Twichell Roberts, who lives in Fort Collins, Colo. The other women in the group are Linda Cowles Slack, who lives in Louisiana, and Polly Kaupang Khanna, who lives in Michigan.
Roberts, a retired writer and public relations executive, says of her five friends: "I would like these women even if I just met them. They're smart, funny, accomplished women."