Freshman Week 1964

“The usual suspects” from Williams C.

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.  We had definitely left the hot summer behind.  For high school graduates, used to returning to school right after Labor Day, the hiatus before starting the freshman year in mid-September was akin to playing hooky for the first time in our young lives.  Being briefly untethered from the pursuit of schooling was a bit disorienting to us, after all the educational indoctrination we had previously received.  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.  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.

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