Freshman Week 1964

We converged on campus in the Purple Valley traveling by plane, by train, and mostly by car. From points to the south, the Taconic Parkway north provided a pastoral ride with a hint of cooler fall weather and the color of leaves beginning to turn. From the East, the Mohawk trail offered its own beauty.

Change was in the air; we had definitely left the hot summer behind. We were all used to returning to school right after Labor Day, so having almost the first half of September free was like playing hooky. Some found this disorienting, especially after all the educational indoctrination we had earlier been subjected to.

Once again we were in a new school, starting at the lowest rung, as had once been the case in our primary and secondary schools. But this time it was palpably different. Meeting roommates, JAs, entry mates, other classmates, and moving in, saying goodbye to parents and siblings, getting course schedules and books—a lot to do and experience in a short time. During all of this, we could see an upperclassman, apparently without a care in the world, driving his (very loud) BSA motorcycle around Chapin Hall and Baxter, over and over again. What was he doing there?

Our required summer reading included The Deadlock of Democracy and The Oxbow Incident. We attended freshman week lectures on these books presented by the famous James MacGregor Burns and by Fred Stocking, and also viewed the Henry Fonda movie version of Oxbow. These were actual lectures, but, once we began classes, most were conducted as discussions in the Williams tradition. Notably, when we were addressed in class as “Mister” by teachers, we knew “we weren’t in Kansas anymore”.

The page had turned.

Leave a Comment or Reply

Required fields are marked with *. Your email address will not be published.