10/16/2019 Barbara K. Altmann

In Perspective

This magazine article is part of Fall 2019 / Issue 94

I was in Edmonton, Alberta, where I was born. While I was learning about the history of the Hudson Bay fur trade and the politics of the Québec separatist movement, my older siblings were moving beyond college into graduate programs and new jobs. Their adventures opened my eyes to the big world beyond my hometown and south of the 49th parallel. For me, it was a “game changer.”

The great social upheaval happening on American college campuses penetrated my preteen consciousness the morning my beloved sister Anna—who had introduced me to Bob Dylan!—left for Cornell. With her hippie pals, she pulled away from our house in a Volkswagen microbus to begin the long geographical and cultural journey from the Canadian prairies to the U.S. Mid- Atlantic and the Ivy League. She and her friends threw themselves into activist life, including involvement with the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). My sister and college students like her were immersed in the movements transforming American culture. Suddenly, what I saw on TV and in the newspaper—civil rights, feminism, the political and sexual revolutions— became real.

Little did I know that I would land at Franklin & Marshall College in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of all the landmark events of 1969 right here.

The Class of ’69 witnessed great changes to our campus as President Keith Spalding erected several new buildings—Pfeiffer (now Hackman Physical Sciences) in 1966-68, Thomas Hall in 1967-68, Whitely Psych Labs (now demolished) in 1968, and Herman Art Center (also recently demolished) in 1969-70. Even more consequential for their F&M experience were the transformations happening in our campus culture. You can read about one of those notable events in the pages of this magazine. Other events include the formation of a Black Power Committee and a talk on race relations from boxing champion Muhammad Ali; the Class of ’69’s vigil after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; an address to the Government Club from civil rights activist James Farmer; a debate on LSD between Dr. Timothy Leary and psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Cohen; and the community’s shifting sentiments toward the U.S. policy in Vietnam between 1965 and 1967.

From Motown to rock ’n’ roll and visits from politicians like Barry Goldwater to the likes of Theodore Sorensen, theirs was a class of ongoing transition, culminating in one final seismic shift. The Class of ’69 would be the last class to graduate from an all-male institution; F&M was going co-ed! A 40th- reunion document written by the Class of ’69 recalls a photograph in the College Reporter (January 17, 1969), labeled “Brave New World,” showing three (male) students next to a headstone inscribed, “Monas T. Cism, 1787–1969.” (See coverage of coeducation in our next issue.)

In this 50th anniversary year, we celebrate all that that last class of “monks” brought about and witnessed. Starting this fall, I hope that you will join us in any way you can to honor all the “game changers” of their era that shaped the F&M we know today.

  • President Barbara K. Altmann, Ph.D.
The great social upheaval happening on American college campuses penetrated my preteen consciousness the morning my beloved sister Anna—who had introduced me to Bob Dylan!—left for Cornell.
Barbara K. Altmann
President
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